Jones on Track for Third National Title After Opening Strokeplay Round

Sam Jones leads the New Zealand Strokeplay after the opening round. (Photo: BW Media // Glenn Taylor)
Sam Jones leads the New Zealand Strokeplay after the opening round. (Photo: BW Media // Glenn Taylor)

New Zealand Amateur champion Sam Jones is off to a flying start at the New Zealand Strokeplay in his quest of adding a third national title to his name in a year.

Jones fired a round of four-under 68 to lead after the opening day at Hastings Golf Club where he won the Hastings Open here a little over a month ago and said the course sets up well for him.

“I really like this golf course; I’ve obviously played a few times with the Hastings Open being held here last month,” Jones explained.

“It’s relatively forgiving off the tee and it just seems to suit my game.”

He said his game is in good shape and he felt in control of his game today.

“It was pretty good today. I got off to a solid start hitting the first eight greens on the front nine and managed to roll a couple of short birdie putts in the first few holes.

“I made par on three of the four par 5s which I wasn’t too happy about but snuck a couple back on the second, fourth, and sixth to get to five-under. I three-putted the seventh but it is what it is, I played solid today,” Jones said.

Jones has an opportunity to achieve something truly special this week. He won the North Island Strokeplay in August last year and added the New Zealand Amateur trophy to his growing trophy cabinet in October.

He’ll join a small group of people to have three national titles to their names if he finishes on top this week. However, he’s not getting ahead of himself just yet.

“I’m just trying to stay calm and go and play golf.

“It’d be an awesome achievement. There’s still plenty of golf left to go but I’d hate to think what’d go on after the event if I could manage to get that done,” he said with a smile on his face.

Trailing just one shot behind is in-form Auckland amateur Jared Edwards.

The left-hander was off early this morning in the cooler conditions and managed to finish well to post a score early.

He said he’s happy with the round.

“I got off to a bit of a slow start, but I was actually hitting it really well. I made a sloppy bogey on the fourth where I three-putted from the fringe, but I managed to keep it together with a few pars and I came strong with three birdies in the last five holes.

“I kept the ball in play which is what you have to do around here. Missing it the wrong spots can be penal, you just have to give yourself lots of looks and you’ll hole some eventually,” Edwards said.

He has fond memories winning the New Zealand Men’s Interprovincials here at the end of last year. He’s looking to create some more memories here this year.

“The course is mint, it’d have to be one of my favourite courses in New Zealand. I loved having the interprovincials here and I have pretty fond memories of my time here.

“I’ve still got a long way to go this week, but it’d be awesome to be in the mix come the end of the week.”

Meanwhile, Jeong Hyun Lee continues to impress during her time in New Zealand as she shot a five-under round to take a one-shot lead going into round two of the New Zealand Women’s Strokeplay.

After contending in last week’s Super 6’s event, she’s carried her form over to this week opening with a bogey-less round at Hastings Golf Club.

“I played really well today. I hit every green and managed to make a lot of birdies.

“I’m happy with how I played today but I had a lot of chances for birdies and I missed a few short putts, but I will try and hole them tomorrow,” Lee said.

The 13-year-old is simply enjoying her time in New Zealand and her golf seems to be flourishing since her arrival at the beginning of the month.

“The weather is nice here and I like playing with the friends that I made here last year.”

She’s hoping she can put four rounds together this week with eyes on a national title during her stay down under.

“I played last week and played well for three days; I didn’t play very well in the final round. I want to play well for four days and maybe win the golf tournament,” Lee said.

Lee will need to hold off last years champion Carmen Lim who got her campaign off to a good start today. She carded a round of three-under to be sitting in a share of third place.

She’s happy with how she’s placed early in the tournament.

“I didn’t start off so great on the front nine, but I restarted early on the back and got things together. I managed to hole some putts and finished okay.

“The greens a very quick. They’re going to get faster as the week progresses, so we’ll see how we go.

“It’s pretty early on in the week, I’m not thinking about leaderboards or anything. I’m just going to keep playing my game,” Lim said.

Fiona Xu is a shot ahead on four-under, trailing by a shot.

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