Sampson Zheng breaks amateur course record to lead Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
The 22-year-old from China started the day six shots back in a tie for 13th and mastered the gusting winds on the famous Sandbelt venue to rack up four front-nine birdies with just one bogey. He moved up a gear again with a spectacular eagle three at the par-5 10th which took him clear of the field.
Zheng, who was part of the winning Asia-Pacific team in the Bonallack Trophy in August, kept up the positive momentum with consecutive birdies on the 12th and 13th before giving a shot back at the next. Playing in his third edition of the Championship, Zheng parred his way in from there to break the amateur Composite Course record of 66 held by Sir Michael Bonallack, whom the trophy is named after, for 55 years and matched earlier this week by New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori. Zheng takes a four-shot lead over the leading home hope Billy Dowling into tomorrow’s final round.
Dowling battled to stay in contention throughout the day. After trading two birdies with four bogeys on the front nine and dropping another at the 12th, he bounced back with birdies at the 14th and 16th but bogeyed the 17th to finish the day one over for the Championship. The 18-year-old from Queensland has four wins since August and is making his debut appearance in the Championship.
Wenyi Ding worked hard to stay in striking distance of his compatriot Zheng. The 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur champion struggled early in his round, including a double bogey six at the fifth hole. A birdie three at the ninth steadied the ship but he dropped shots at the 11th, 14th and 17th to post a five over round of 76 and finish two over.
Even with Ding is first-round leader Kobori, who carded a three over round of 74. They are one shot ahead of Australia’s Max Charles, who sits three over alongside his fellow Australian Jasper Stubbs in a tie for fifth.
With windy conditions, the only other under par round of the day came from China’s Yanhan Zhou, who produced a two-under-par 69 to sit eight over and tied for 16th.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur field comprises 120 of the top male amateurs from the Asia-Pacific region. The 2023 field features players from 37 nations, all competing to secure an exemption into The Open and an invitation to the Masters Tournament in 2024. The Championship was created in 2009 by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation in an effort to further develop amateur golf throughout the region.