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Scotland lead the way in Mexico

A ten-under-par total of 134 gave Scotland a one stroke lead over Australia after the first round of the 30th World Amateur Team Championship (WATC).

Connor Syme led Scotland with a 66, the low round of the day, at the Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club.

Syme, who won this year’s Australian Amateur, went out in 31on the outward stretch. He finished with seven birdies and one bogey. Grant Forrest, a member of the winning 2015 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team, added a 68, four-under-par. Robert MacIntyre had a non-counting round of 69.

“The players know they have a good chance to do well here, and they are all pretty highly ranked in the world,” said Scotland captain Claire Queen, whose team prepared for the hot and humid conditions in Orlando, Florida last week. “It’s been a really good first day, and that will give them more belief for the remainder of the championship.”

Scotland’s total of 134 tied the third-lowest first-round score in WATC history. The United States set the opening-round record with a 131 in 2012 and also posted a 132 in 2004.

“The key was to get it right off the tee, and then it would give you some chances,” said Syme, who made birdies on four of his opening six holes. “There’s a few par fives you can get up on, and my strength today was accuracy off the tee, so I had a lot of good opportunities.”

Australia put together a nine-under-par score at Iberostar. Cameron Davis, the 2016 Brabazon Trophy runner-up, made seven birdies en route to a round of 67. Harrison Endycott, this year’s Porter Cup champion, surged to a 68 that included four consecutive birdies on his inward nine after starting on the 10th hole.

“We’ve come here with high expectations,” said Australia’s captain, Matt Cutler, who also received a non-counting score of 69 from 2016 U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck. “We told the guys not to look at the scoreboards because on day one there are two different courses, and it can change so quickly.”

Spain was two strokes back in third place at eight-under-par. Mario Galiano, who is competing in his second consecutive WATC, fired a 67, while his teammate Manuel Elvira, who is a junior at the University of Central Florida, added a 69.

“It is important to post a good score early because of the weather, because it is so hot,” said Spain’s captain, Luis Mendez. “Playing in the morning is an advantage, and you have less hot weather.”

Galiano, who helped his country win the 2014 European Amateur Team Championship, made four birdies and one bogey on the outward nine at Iberostar. He added birdies on Nos. 14 and 16, both par 5s

“I played really solid around the course,” Galiano said. “I hit the fairways, put the ball in good positions, and I am very confident with the irons, so I also hit the greens to give myself opportunities.”

Ireland, who played its first round at the Mayakoba El Camaleon Golf Club, Poland, and Thailand are tied for fourth at six-under-par. Paul McBride, of Ireland, registered a 66, five-under-par, while teammate Stuart Grehan had a 70.

Adrian Meronk, of Poland, matched Syme for low round with 66 at Iberostar. Meronk and Mateuz Gradecki, who shot a 72, are competing in their third WATC together and were East Tennessee State University teammates. Thailand’s Kaousuke Hamamoto and Sadom Keawkanjana each fired a three-under-par 69.

McBride made six birdies, including one from a fairway divot where he struck a sand wedge to within two feet. He made his lone bogey on the par-4 18th when his greenside bunker shot hit the flagstick and spun from the hole. He failed to convert a 6½-foot par putt.

“I didn’t really do anything crazy,” said McBride, who is a sophomore at Wake Forest University and whose round was interrupted by a 44-minute weather delay. “I didn’t hole many long putts. The distance-control on my irons was really good.”

USA, France, Japan, and Switzerland are tied for seventh at five-under-par. Brad Dalke, of the USA and the 2016 US Amateur runner-up, posted a 67, while teammate Maverick McNealy had a 70. Dalke, a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma, made birdie on his first hole before hitting an 8-iron approach from the rough to set up his sixth birdie of the round at the par-4 16th.

“I was a little nervous before this round because this is such a huge event,” said Dalke, whose team has won the last two WATCs. “We want to defend it for a third time. I was nervous but once I got out there I felt comfortable.”

Twenty-six teams broke par in the first round and 52 sub-par scores counted, the second-highest total in WATC history.

The WATC is a biennial international amateur competition conducted by the International Golf Federation (IGF), which comprises 147 national governing bodies in 141 countries and 22 professional members.

The competition, which is being held for the 30th time, is rotated among three geographic zones: Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe-Africa. This year’s event is being hosted by the Mexican Golf Federation. The teams play for the Eisenhower Trophy.

The IGF is the international federation for golf for the International Olympic Committee and conducted the Olympic golf competition in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In each round, the total of the two lowest scores from each team constitutes the team score for the round. The four-day total (72-hole) total is the team’s score for the championship.

Teams that played Mayakoba El Camaleon in the first round will play Iberostar Playa Paraiso in the second round and vice versa.

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