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Lucky Break Leaves Australian in Control

Capitalising on an outrageous stroke of good fortune, James Lavender maintained top billing at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) Senior Championships.

The two-time Australian Senior Amateur champion followed his opening 68 with an even-par 72 at Vinpearl Golf Nam Hoi An. With a 36-hole total of four-under 140 he will take a two-stroke lead from Indian Sandeep S. Sandhu into Thursday’s third and final round.

Two shots further back in third on 144 is New Zealander Stuart Duff, champion in 2019.

Two other past APGC Senior Amateur champions are also very much in the picture. Australian Greg Rhodes, triumphant in Malaysia last year, and New Zealand’s Brent Paterson, victorious in 2017 and 2018, are tied for fourth on 145.

By his own admission, 62-year-old Lavender is fortunate to have a buffer to take into the last day after a fortuitous par at the 401-yard ninth, one of the hardest holes on the course.

“I certainly got a great break there. I could easily have ended with a double-bogey or worse,” said Lavender, whose pulled five-iron approach into the wind appeared destined for the water hazard short of the putting surface.

Pace-setting James Lavender (far right) with round two flight-mates Sandeep Sandhu (far left), Korean Jang Heong-soo (second left) and Brent Paterson (second right). 

Seemingly defying the laws of gravity, his ball pitched on the stone wall at the side of the hazard and instead of bouncing left into the water, it improbably looped to the right, coming to rest at the front of the putting surface.

Lavender left his 40-foot birdie effort seven feet shy but made no mistake with the par attempt, breathing a sigh of relief as his ball disappeared below ground.

It completed an eventful front nine for the pace-setter who chipped in for birdie at the first after missing the green left and almost aced the 135-metre par-three third with an eight-iron before dropping shots at six and seven.

It was a similarly uneven story on the back nine with birdies at 10 and 12 cancelled out by bogeys at two of the last three holes.

“I grinded it out, but I’d have taken this position at the start of the week. Any time you’re leading it’s better than being behind,” said Lavender, who believes he’ll have to shoot under par in the final round to claim the title – and a starting spot in next year’s R&A Senior Amateur.

Sandhu also has designs on lifting the APGC trophy. Despite dropping shots at 15 and 17 and lipping out for birdie at 18, he signed for a second successive 71 and retains a positive outlook.

“I came here to have fun … and that’s what I’m doing,” said Sandhu, a past captain at Chandigarh Golf Club who is playing in Vietnam for the first time.

Duff hauled himself into contention with the first bogey-free round of the tournament – but was left to rue a succession of missed birdie attempts. “I had three tap-in birdies but didn’t make anything else. It could have been my best-ever round,” he said, following his 69.

Paterson, who won this year’s R&A Senior Amateur, twice found water in a front nine 39, pulling his drive into the lake on the second where he escaped with a bogey and then taking six at the par-four ninth after his approach splashed into the hazard. But he came back strongly with four birdies in an inward 34 that keeps him in contention.

In the team event, the Australian quartet of Lavender, Rhodes, Ian Frost and Mark Allen are five shots ahead of the second-placed New Zealand line-up of Duff, Paterson, Malcolm Gullery and Tony Chettleburgh. There’s then a further five-stroke gap back to third-placed Korea 2. The best three daily scores in each four-man team are counted.

Sue Wooster leads the APGC Women's Senior Championship.

In the second edition of the APGC Women’s Senior Amateur, Sue Wooster took over from fellow-Australian Gemma Dooley at the top of the leaderboard.

“It was a solid round. Nothing too flash,” said Wooster after signing for an even-par 72 which included two birdies and two bogeys.

Runner-up in last year’s inaugural women’s event in Malaysia, Wooster has a two-day aggregate of three-over 147 and holds a two-stroke lead from Dooley with New Zealander Lisa Herbert a further two shots back in third.

Thanks to the strong showings of Wooster and Dooley, Australia is poised to retain its team title. With a two-day tally of eight-over 296 in the event in which the best two daily scores in each team of three are counted, Australia is 16 shots clear of second-placed New Zealand.

This is just the second occasion since the APGC Senior Championships were inaugurated in 2006 that they’ve been staged in Vietnam, the first time being at Montgomerie Links in Danang in 2013.

Gold Sponsors this week are VinpearlGolf and Noressy. Silver Sponsors are Long Bien Golf Course, QUAVIET, Superkit, bep Tran and S Golf.

LEADING MEN’S INDIVIDUAL SCORES

140 – James Lavender (Australia) 68-72
142 – Sandeep S. Sandhu (India) 71-71
144 – Stuart Duff (New Zealand) 75-69
145 – Greg Rhodes (Australia) 73-72; Brent Paterson (New Zealand) 72-73
146 – Kim Yang-kwon (Korea) 75-71
148 – Chung Hwan (Korea) 77-71; Syren Johnstone (Hong Kong, China) 74-74
149 – Andrew Ng (Singapore) 75-74; Lai Chee Weng (Singapore) 75-74; Jang Heong-soo (Korea) 72-77
150 – Kim Yeon-gi (Korea) 76-74; Kim Dong-sub (Korea) 74-76
151 – Tony Chettleburgh (New Zealand) 76-75
152 – Jimmy Aw (Singapore) 78-74; Ian Frost (Australia) 78-74; Gaurav Ghosh (India) 75-77
153 – Malcolm Gullery (New Zealand) 79-74; Stuart Murray (Hong Kong, China) 76-77
154 – Amit Luthra (India) 77-77; Doug Williams (Hong Kong, China) 77-77; David D’Souza (India) 76-78; Mark Allen (Australia) 75-79; Duong Ngoc Duong (Vietnam) 74-80

LEADING MEN’S TEAM SCORES

434 – Australia 216-218 (James Lavender 68-72; Greg Rhodes 73-72; Mark Allen 75-79; Ian Frost 78-74)
439 – New Zealand 223-216 (Brent Paterson 72-73; Stuart Duff 75-69; Tony Chettleburgh 76-75; Malcolm Gullery 79-74)
444 – Korea 2 226-218 (Kim Dong-sub 74-76; Kim Yang-kwon 75-71; Chung Hwan 77-71; Lim Nae-rack 87-76)
447 – India 221-226 (Sandeep S. Sandhu 71-71; Jaideep Singh 75-81; Gaurav Ghosh 75-77; David D’Souza 76-78)
454 – Korea 1 227-227 (Jang Heong-soo 72-77; Kim Yeon-gi 76-74; Ryo Ki-ro 79-77; Jung Gyeong-ho 81-76)
460 – Hong Kong, China 229-231 (Syren Johnstone 74-74; Stuart Murray 76-77; John Ball 79-83; Yoshihiro Nishi 82-80)

LEADING WOMEN’S INDIVIDUAL SCORES

147 – Sue Wooster (Australia) 75-72
149 – Gemma Dooley (Australia) 74-75
151 – Lisa Herbert (New Zealand) 76-75
155 – Louise Mullard (Australia) 76-79
160 – Loida Arnold (Hong Kong, China) 81-79; Yukiko Hirahara (Singapore) 79-81
162 – Diana Syer (New Zealand) 80-82; Cathy Chung (Hong Kong, China) 83-79
163 – Robyn Pellow (New Zealand) 79-84

LEADING WOMEN’S TEAM SCORES

296 – Australia 149-147 (Sue Wooster 75-72; Gemma Dooley 74-75; Louise Mullard 76-79)
312 – New Zealand 155-157 (Lisa Herbert 76-75; Diana Syer 80-82; Robyn Pellow 79-84)
322 – Hong Kong China 164-158 (Loida Arnold 8179; Cathy Chung 83-79; Felicia Louey 86-84)

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