‘In­cred­i­ble sup­port’ in a week to re­mem­ber

The Dominion Post - - Sport - MARK GEENTY

When Daniel Hil­lier rat­tled off five birdies in his first six holes on a sunny Satur­day morn­ing, an ex­pec­tant buzz went around his large gallery at Royal Welling­ton.

The 19-year-old lo­cal lad couldn’t quite add the ic­ing to the round of his life on mov­ing day, but he held it to­gether to be the top New Zealan­der, tied for sixth at his se­cond Asia-Pa­cific Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship.

Dual week­end rounds of 68 left Hil­lier tied with Aus­tralian Shae Wools-Cobb, who lit up the course with an open­ing round 63, on five-un­der for the tour­na­ment, nine shots off win­ner Yuxin Lin of China who booked his dream ticket to next year’s Mas­ters and Open Cham­pi­onship.

‘‘I was feed­ing off the crowd and it was a great feel­ing. I was in the zone and it was un­for­tu­nate I couldn’t keep it go­ing for that whole round, but that’s golf,’’ Hil­lier said of his Satur­day charge.

‘‘There’s mixed feel­ings. I’m happy that I fought hard the whole week and didn’t let my head drop. It would have been nice to be in con­tention down the fi­nal stretch.’’

Hil­lier had four birdies and a soli­tary bo­gey in his fi­nal round, but had too much ground to make up af­ter start­ing the day six be­hind Lin.

The for­mer Aotea Col­lege stu­dent who honed his craft down the road at Manor Park is used to play­ing to empty gal­leries on home turf and rel­ished the big oc­ca­sion af­ter shaky start.

‘‘It’s the most fun I’ve had on the golf course even though I didn’t come out on top. The sup­port I had through­out the whole week was in­cred­i­ble with friends and fam­ily. I don’t feel like I was far off and over­all I’m ex­tremely happy with the week.’’

There’s no rest for the coun­try’s se­cond-ranked am­a­teur who flies to Christchurch to­day for this week’s New Zealand Am­a­teur, which he won as a 17-year-old.

Un­like his team-mates Nick Voke and Ryan Chis­nall who will chase pro ca­reers, Hil­lier plans to re­main in the am­a­teur ranks be­fore a po­ten­tial shot at qual­i­fy­ing school at the end of next year.

Master­ton’s Kerry Mount­cas­tle, the coun­try’s ninth-ranked am­a­teur, ended a mem­o­rable week by fin­ish­ing ninth with a fi­nal round of 71. The elec­tri­cian, who will re­turn to work af­ter this week’s NZ Am­a­teur, be­gan the day four shots off the pace but two early bo­geys halted his progress.

New Zealand’s No 1 and No 3, Voke and Chis­nall, were tied for 10th, 11 shots be­hind Lin.

Chis­nall rat­tled home with dual rounds of 67 while Voke’s chances evap­o­rated with 73 on Satur­day be­fore he closed with 69. The Iowa State Uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate re­turns for the se­cond stage of Web.com Tour qual­i­fy­ing school in Texas next month, where a top-20 fin­ish will en­sure a pro ca­reer in the US.

‘‘What a week. It’s pretty hard to describe. I didn’t quite have the goods out there and didn’t com­pete how I wanted to,’’ he said.

‘‘But how spe­cial is this, to play for New Zealand and put the sil­ver fern on at the pin­na­cle of the game here. If the stars aligned and I had my head screwed on prop­erly things could have been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.’’

❚ Golden ticket B9

A fi­nal round of 68 saw Daniel Hil­lier fin­ish best of the New Zealan­ders tied for sixth in the Asia-Pa­cific Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship at Royal Welling­ton.

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