Golf: McCall believes he's a contender

By Daniel Richardson of APNZ in Christchurch

Vaughn McCall. Photo / Simon Watts/photosport.co.nz
Vaughn McCall. Photo / Simon Watts/photosport.co.nz

It's been more than 50 years since an amateur golfer won the New Zealand Open, but Vaughan McCall doesn't see why he can't be in the mix at Clearwater on Sunday.

The Gore Golf Club right-hander sat in the clubhouse this afternoon (thurs) in Christchurch after he fired a one-under 71 that was good for a share of fourth place after the first round of the Open.

McCall, who is New Zealand's No 1-ranked male amateur, shot three birdies and two bogeys around Clearwater as he took advantage of the better conditions in the morning.

The last amateur to win the Open was Australian Harry Berwick, who topped the field in 1956, and McCall has the potential to stun the pros this week.

"I think I'm capable of winning, but I've put my sights on getting myself into contention and giving myself a chance to win because of the experience I'll get out of that," the 21-year-old said.

The stiff Clearwater breeze got up during the latter stages of McCall's round, but he held strong to finish with a promising first round.

"I hit the ball really solid, which is just what you need to do out there in the wind. You need to strike the ball really well.

"I'm happy with how I'm hitting it and I rolled the rock really well too."

McCall will tee off at 12.40pm tomorrow (fri), which means he will have to play his round throughout the afternoon, when the wind is likely to be the strongest out on the course.

"It will depend on conditions, but I just want to keep myself in contention to shoot a low round and get on that leaderboard as well," he said.

"I like the wind and feel I've got a good strategy for how to play it and I handled it well today."

Not every player found Clearwater as easy as McCall though, as a handful of competitors were chewed up and spat out by the brutal course and strong winds.

Monday qualifier Joonsang Chung carded a whopping 17-over 89, while Marlborough amateur Brook Hale produced a 51 on the front nine and eventually signed for a 24-over 96 that left him in last place.

Fellow amateur Compton Pikari went straight out on the course and shot a nine on the par-five 10th hole, which was a devastating way to start his first New Zealand Open.

The youngster finished with an 18-over score of 90 and would need to produce something miraculous in his second round to make the cut.

Australian pro Gavin Fairfax was disqualified after he signed for an incorrect scorecard.

- APNZ

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