Wellington golfers Haupai Puha (Royal Wellington) and Cruize Wawatai (Titahi) have begun the 76th New Zealand Golf Maori National Championship in good form.
In hot weather at Taupo Golf Club, the pair carded rounds of one-over-par 73 in the hard and fast conditions to lead the Senior Men's Championship by one shot from Inia Logan (Cromwell) after round one of the two-round qualifying event for the national match play title which concludes on Friday.
Puha, the defending champion, is among the favourites to go back-to-back but will face tough competition as only six strokes separate the top 16 players heading into the final round of qualifying yesterday.
The first two rounds are stroke play and the top 16 of each division go to match play.
Meanwhile Wellington rep Te Rongopai Clay, who was part of the team that finished runner-up to Auckland at the St Clair Golf Club for the Toro Women's Interprovincial, continued her good form in the Senior Women's Championship.
Clay (Titahi) carded an even-par 73 at Centennial on day one to earn a four-stroke lead from Kate Chadwick (Napier). Local Erikah Waiariki (Taupo) signed for a seven-over-par 80 to be in third place.
The battle to finish as stroke play winner, and leading qualifier for match play, shapes as a three-horse race.
Clay will be looking to back up the National Age Group Championship that she won in 2012 at the Mangawhai Golf Club from team-mate Julianne Alvarez.
In the other divisions Paul Retemeyer (Lake View Golf and Country Club) led the junior men after carding an 84 at the Tauhara course.
Ray Dearing (Stewart Alexander) claimed the round one lead in the intermediate division after he opened with an 84. Noel Coombe (Pahiatua) led the Masters Men division with an even-par 72 and Isobel Dick (Wellsford) led the Golden Girls with an 84 in round one.
It is the 76th staging of the New Zealand Golf Maori National Championship with more than 250 golfers competing in Taupo.