Schoolboy leads Akarana Open

By NZ Golf

Jimmy Zheng during the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship. Photo / Kerry Marshall
Jimmy Zheng during the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship. Photo / Kerry Marshall

With a leaderboard full of experienced names, it is 15-year-old Jimmy Zheng who leads the Barfoot & Thompson Akarana Open.

The Howick amateur has a one-shot advantage over 2015 champion and veteran of the Jennian Homes Charles Tour, Gareth Paddison, after carding a colourful six-under par (64).

With eight birdies and two bogeys he backed up a first round of 65 to show he can foot it with some of the countrys best golfers and he found it hard to hide his emotions.

"Im pretty excited, but also very, very nervous," smiled Zheng.

The schoolboy felt slightly guilty when he laughed at the fact he was meant to be at school this week.

"I should be at school! School isnt too happy with me being away so much, but hopefully they will see the leaderboard."

Although he is one of the youngest players here, he showed maturity when realizing the position he is in.

"I feel privileged to be able play in this tournament with the course in good condition and Im just pretty excited to be honest. This is all great experience for me and I am looking forward to learning from the other players tomorrow."

Zheng missed the cut at last weeks New Zealand Stroke Play Championship which makes this feat even more special. Prior to this, he travelled to Australia for a training camp with New Zealand Amateur Champion Rose Zheng (not a sibling, nor cousin) which seems to be working.

The experienced players that Zheng will be aiming to learn from, wont be taking it easy on the new leader and Paddison is first in line to spoil his party.

The former champion got off to the best start possible after being six-under through just five holes, but couldnt quite pounce on the opportunity.

"Im pretty happy with the round, I got off to a flyer to be six-under through five, so to play my last 12 holes square with the card was quite disappointing really," said Paddison.

He is not the only experienced player in the field and knows that moving day will provide a big shake up.

"You cant rule Mike [Hendy] out thats for sure, if he can win the New Zealand Open I dont think Akarana is going to be too much of a problem with him. Moving day is going to be massive this week."

The Akarana Golf Club will be pleased with the interesting leaderboard with another past champion Josh Geary rounding out the top three.

Geary has gone 67, 65 to give himself a good chance to earn his second Akarana Open title after his bogey free round this afternoon.

The womens field got a huge boost this afternoon after witnessing the round of the day (from both fields) from Hanee Song who shot six-under par to now lead the championship by two shots.

Her round was launched into gear with two hole outs, one of which was for eagle on the par four, 14th.

Song has returned to the Jennian Homes Charles Tour for the first time since 2014 with her best finish being tied fourth at this same event. The 21-year-old was pleased with her round two score after a nervous start.

"It was an exciting round with, but I am just going to try keep having fun," said Song.

"I was nervous yesterday with it being my first tournament in a month, but today it was nice to produce a low round."

Shadowing the new leader is Alanna Campbell of Omanu who produced a steady one-under par round.

Campbell entered the round thinking Subin Wui was her main rival, but the rise of Song and the demise of Wui changed her thinking within the hour.

Wui shot an uncharacteristic 74 to now sit at even par, four shots behind our exciting new leader.

Moving day is destined to be an exciting chapter in the Barfoot & Thompson Akarana Open with the lead group of Zheng, Paddison and Geary providing a youth versus the experienced former champions. Whilst Henry Spring and Tom Parker who are part of the New Zealand Golf talent development programme have earnt the chance to play alongside the New Zealand Open Champion, Mike Hendry.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Golf NZ

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