Following months of preparation and anticipation, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship began today at Royal Wellington in New Zealand. Rob Smith reports…

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Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship – Day One

Split into half for morning and afternoon start times, the cosmopolitan field of 120 leading amateur golfers today set out to compete over the beautiful Heretaunga Course at Royal Wellington. From American Samoa to Vietnam, many of golf’s rising stars are here with the aim of becoming the ninth champion of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

Play began at Royal Wellington at 8, and following the strong winds of the day before and heavy overnight rain, preferred lies were in place on closely mown areas.

Strong Winds During Practice Day

Happily, apart from occasional brief surges, the elements were far kinder to the golfers meaning that compiling a score on this demanding course would be possible.

There was a Press Conference mid-morning with the leading figures from the three governing bodies, the Founding Fathers. In attendance were Dr. David Cherry representing the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, new-incumbent Chairman of Augusta National, Fred Ridley, and Chief Executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers.

The Founding Fathers

Chairman Ridley explained why Augusta National and The R&A support this important championship. “We feel that we have an obligation to support the game and promote the game, and this championship really is a manifestation of that founding principle of our club. We think that it is accomplishing many of its goals to increase awareness of the game throughout this region. It’s a vast region with many countries that support golf in many different ways.”

On a separate issue, Martin Slumbers was asked about ball technology in relation to the distance they now travel and the demands this puts on some of our greatest courses that are now struggling in terms of length. He replied that, “From our perspective, the discussion around the distance the golf ball goes is probably in my top three items in my in-tray that we are working through.” He then explained that it is only really vital for the very best players, concluding that, “You’re beginning to get to a point where balancing skill and technology for the beginner or the young amateur could well be a different angle to the skill and technology balance for a very elite player.”

Fred Ridley and Martin Slumbers

Out on the course, young Australian Shae Wools-Cobb was putting together the round of his life. Starting on the 10th, he opened with three straight birdies, another at the 16th, and a driver, 3-wood, 20-foot putt eagle on the 18th to turn in a breathtaking 29.

The Leader Tees Off on the Eighteenth

The good work continued on his back nine as he moved to 9-under with four to play.

High-tech Leaderboard Beside the Eighteenth

Sadly, he missed the green by a foot on the par-4 6th which led to a bogey, but he still finished with a splendid 63. Afterwards, the delighted 21 year-old said,I had so much fun out there and it was pretty stress free. So I really enjoyed my day and hopefully I can do much the same the last three rounds as well.”    

Mike Woodcock From The R&A Interviews The First-Round Leader

In normal circumstances, the excellent 4-under 67s from fellow-Australian Min Woo Lee, from the host nation’s Nick Voke, Japan’s Sean Maruyama and Lloyd Jefferson Go from the Philippines would be considered exceptional. They were, of course, but they were also overshadowed by the performance of the overnight leader, Shae Wools-Cobb. There are plenty of other golfers under par and the remainder of the field will all be looking to make up ground tomorrow as the field gets whittled down to 60 and ties for the weekend. With morning and afternoon tee times swapping over for Friday, the all-important wind-factor is likely to be key and it will be very interesting to see what happens.