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Nienaber leads The Amateur after first round

South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber led the way after the first round of stroke play qualifying in The 123rd Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links today.

 

The 18-year-old from Bloemfontein got off to a fine start at the par 70 Murcar with birdie threes at his opening two holes. Nienaber, who lost out in a play-off to England’s Nick Poppleton in the Brabazon Trophy earlier this month, notched up three birdies in five holes from the 4th but bogeyed the par three 5th. He bounced back from a dropped shot at the 10th with a birdie at the 14th on his way to a four-under-par 66.

In blustery but sunny conditions in the north east, Australia’s David Micheluzzi and Canada’s Sam Meek finished two strokes back on two-under-par. Micheluzzi, the 2018 Australian Masters of the Amateur champion, slipped into top gear from the start at Royal Aberdeen with five birdies in his opening seven holes and just the one dropped shot. Birdies on the 12th and 13th were undone by an untidy finish with three bogeys in the 21-year-old’s last four holes as he completed a 69 on the par 71 course.

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Australian David Micheluzzi sits two shots back after an opening round of 69.

Windy Conditions 

“If I was told I would have shot 69 today before the round I would have been pretty happy with it but I’m pretty disappointed at how I finished,” he said.

“These holes into the wind are so difficult. I just tried to keep it in play and I made a good bogey at the last which hopefully gives me momentum.”

At the same venue, Meek enjoyed something of a rollercoaster round with the undoubted highlight being a magnificent albatross two on the 487-yard par five sixth. His purple patch began with birdies on the 4th and 5th and continued with another at the 8th but he ran into trouble with a double bogey six at the 10th. A birdie at the 14th was sandwiched with dropped shots at the 13th and the 15th which meant he finished with a 69.

“I had no idea it went in,” said the 19-year-old. “It was totally blind. I had 240 yards so I just hit 5 iron up there. It looked good but I really had no idea until the people up there started jumping so I figured it was in the hole. That was a pretty good feeling – I’ve never made one of those before. I just need a hole in one and then I can say I’ve got this!”

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Sam Meek talks to the media after round one of The 123rd Amateur Championship.

Hovland in the hunt

Norway’s Viktor Hovland, the highest-ranked player in the field, at fifth in the World Amateur Golf ranking, posted a one-under-par round of 70 at Royal Aberdeen, while the leading Scot was Euan McIntosh from Turnhouse who carded a level-par 71 at the same venue.

The 288-strong field will play the second stroke play qualifying round tomorrow with the leading 64 and ties qualifying for the match play stage. Play gets underway at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links at 7am.

Admission is free to the public. Fans can also book a spot at Carnoustie for the return of The Open, from July 15-22, with 123 tickets available in a prize draw at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links. Spectators who attend The Amateur Championship can enter the draw at stations set up at both courses.

For scoring from The Amateur Championship please click here.