Golf: Lee hungry for Open win

Auckland professional Richard Lee has created his own history at the Tauranga Golf Club but the Japan Tour player wants to win his first event on The Charles Tour at the Carrus Open which tees off tomorrow.

The 39-year-old made golfing headlines around the country in 2010 when he recorded the first sub-60 score in a professional event in New Zealand with an 11-under 59.

He has come close on a number of occasions to winning on The Charles Tour and he'll begin the week among the favourites alongside Mark Brown, Grant Moorhead and Hawke's Bay's Doug Holloway for the lion's share of the $40,000 purse.

"I am looking forward to getting back to the Tauranga Golf Club," said Lee.

"I like the course. It offers plenty of birdie opportunities. I haven't won on the Charles Tour yet so I am going to go out there and shoot as low as I can and see where I finish up."

Lee can remember that magical round like it was yesterday.

He made nine birdies and an eagle in his round, slotting a 1.8m birdie putt on his last hole for a course record at Tauranga Golf Club.

"Those sorts of rounds just happen and you just enjoy the ride," Lee said looking back on his round.

"I started thinking about 59 on about the fifth to last hole and thought I had lost it a couple of times, but I just managed to sneak in on the last hole.

"The last hole was the only time I got a little bit nervous. I wasn't sure what to do on the last. It's a drive-able par-four and I ummed and ahhed whether I should go for it or whether to lay up. I made a decision earlier in the week that I was going to really attack this course and so I did.

"The drive went into the bunker but I got it to six feet and I must admit the hands were shaking a bit on that putt.

"It was a good personal thing to achieve. I know a lot of good players have come close to shooting 59 and I didn't want to come close and miss that opportunity. I was just glad that I got it done."

Lee has a few things he'd like to get done before the 2012 season is over. He wants to win the New Zealand PGA Order of Merit to secure a place at NZ PGA Pro-Am in 2013.

He also wants to retain his playing credentials on the Japan Golf Tour where he currently sits 94th on the Order of Merit and needs to climb inside the top 70 on the money list.

Those hopes were boosted by a recent phone call that informed him he is playing in the Japan Open. He placed 23rd at the Kansai Open earlier in the year and that was good enough to claim one of the eight places available for the Japan Open as the players ahead of him had already qualified.

"I am really looking forward to it as I have never played in the Japan Open before.

"They trick the course up a bit and make it really tough and it will be a good test for me. You never know what is going to happen but I know I need some results and I will be doing my best to keep my card," he said.

He enjoys the Japan Golf Tour but has found the conditions uncomfortably hot in recent weeks.

"My form has been better. I feel like I am playing a lot more consistently, it always could be better.

Playing with one of the superstars of world golf last week confirmed that Lee was heading in the right direction.

"I played with Ryo Ishikawa last week, the young fella from Japan who is a highly rated player, and we did everything the same but he shot two-three shots better than me. That is the difference.

"He didn't play great but he scored well which is the sign of a good player. The ninth hole for example we both hit it in the bunker and he got up and down for birdie and I didn't.

"That happened two or three times per round and it all adds up, at the end of the week those eight shots make a difference in where you place. It is all about capitalising on your opportunities."

The Carrus Open is the third event of the Charles Tour for 2012 with the John Jones Steel Ltd Harewood Open in October and the Wairakei Open in December.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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