Southland No 1 Vaughan McCall remains on track to become the first golfer in 24 years to win both the New Zealand stroke play and amateur titles in the same year - but only just.
The national stroke play champion saved his best for last today at the Mount Maunganui Golf Club, with an approach shot to one foot enabling him to withstand a superb comeback from Canterbury representative Jordan Bakermans and progress to the quarter-finals of the New Zealand Amateur.
Bakermans, who last week won the South Island under 19 title, forced the No 2 seed McCall to come up with his best with his stroke play when his putter went cold late in the round.
"Both matches were a real grind today right from the word go," McCall said. "Jordan put a huge amount of pressure on me this afternoon. I was three up with four holes to play and he went birdie, birdie, and I missed a couple of short putts which made the game interesting.
Australian Ryan McCarthy, who was the No 1 seed after playing superbly in qualifying, was not so lucky. He staged a fine comeback of his own against compatriot Brady Watt, but it was too little too late with the Western Australian holding on for a 1 up win.
Watt, the No 17 seed, now has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Matt Jager as an Australian winner, especially as he finds himself on the relatively easier side of the draw.
The top side of the draw sees Harry Bateman (13), Peter Lee (21), Tae Koh (9) and Watt looking to make the final. The other side sees Brad Hayward (19), Tom Brockelsby (22), Sam An (7) and McCall (2).
The feature match will come early tomorrow (Sat) when McCall squares with fellow New Zealand representative An off in the quarterfinal.
In the women's division, the No 1 seed Julianne Alvarez is safely through to the quarter-finals, but not before she was made to sweat by Wellington teammate Te Rongopai Clay.
The 15-year-old Alvarez, who dispatched Kimberly McPhatter this morning, continued her winning ways with a tense victory over Clay that went to the 19th.
"It was really tight," Alvarez said. "Te Rongopai is a really good match play golfer and we have great matches when we are at home, and today was no different. It was intense. It is hard to get competitive with your friends but you have to, you have to figure out a way to do it. You can't go being soft.
"There is huge relief there and I am looking forward to getting back to playing my own game. Today, I was too focused on what my opponent was doing and only got through by the skin of my teeth."
The Waikato No 3 Sarah Bradley, who is back competing in the national events after playing golf on a scholarship at Oklahoma State, beat Rebecca Smith 3 and 2 and backed it up with a win over Canterbury's Sylvie Williams by the same margin.
The winners from the top side of the draw were Alvarez (1), Lita Guo (9), Jan Manoonpong (28) and Wenyung Keh (13). Mun Chin Keh (19), Caryn Khoo (11), Joanna Kim (10) and Bradley (2) were the players to progress from the other side of the draw.
The quarter-finals and semifinals of the tournament will be played tomorrow, with the 36 hole final contested on Sunday.