After dominating on day one and struggling with strong winds on day two, Harry Hillier has become the third University of Kansas student to have taken the top prize at Rotorua's annual Danny Lee Springfield Open.
The Te Puke 19-year-old was among the highly competitive field at the Danny Lee Springfield Open at the weekend, attracting some of New Zealand's best young golfers who battled the scorching hot sun and each other.
Hillier, who is a sophomore at the University of Kansas where he is on the golf team, dominated on day one, shooting an impressive 11-under par total (65 and 64) to lead by three. Sunday was a different story, however, with Hillier saying he had to tough it out in windy conditions.
Despite the struggle, Hillier's US-based diet of focused golf - featuring about 14 tournaments, including a US win, and 20 hours practise a week and study - during the last year has helped him improve his play to take the win in the men's open. He is the third University of Kansas winner, alongside his brother Charlie and last year's champion Andrew Spencer.
"College golf has been very helpful to my golf over here where the courses are a lot easier."
Hillier shot 65, 64 and 72 to finish first with a gross score of 201, his first win in five attempts. He finished ahead of Gulf Harbour's James Hydes (203) and Feilding's Liam Finlayson (204).
"I was happy with the first two rounds … I didn't actually play all that great in the last round, I struggled in the wind and didn't strike it that well but overall I'm happy with the win," Hillier, a former Bay of Plenty representative and current Te Puke Golf Club member said.
Sherwood Park 16-year-old Hye Won Choi won the women's division and both overall winners have been runner-ups at previous Danny Lee Springfield Opens.
The tournament is an annual opportunity for other aspiring golfers to make their mark. It was the 14th edition of the 54-hole Springfield Open, which Lee has sponsored for the last 10 years, since going professional. Growing up in Rotorua, he won the tournament at his home club on multiple occasions.
Tournament director Craig Tiriana said the idea of the tournament was for young players to have an opportunity to play competitively at this time of the year, many for the first time in a proper tournament.
The best of the men's Rotorua hopefuls was Geyserland 16-year-old James Tauariki who finished sixth with 208, while his clubmate Jayme Martin closed with a stunning 65. Taupō's Matthew Martin fifth and Rotorua's Raoul Piggot finished 11th.
In the women's open, Choi shot 66, 67 and 70 to finish with an impressive 13-under par gross score of 203. Fiona Xu was six shots back in second (209) and Jeong Hyun Lee was third (214).
It was her first major amateur tournament win and she dominated throughout. During her last three holes on Sunday, she came home in a flurry, knocking in three putts from inside six metres to finish birdie, eagle, birdie.
She is South Korean born but currently a member of a golf academy in Northland.
The tournament carries World Amateur Golf Ranking points (WAGR) and Tiriana said there was a high standard of golf with 45 sub-par rounds - 15 women and 30 men.
Choi's Sherwood Park teammate Soyoung Choi, who plays on a three handicap, provided an additional highlight when she hit a hole-in-one, acing the par three, 154m 16th hole.
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