29 Mar 2022 | Amateur golf |

#AusAm R1: Buchanan's blitz, Xu's excellence

by Dane Heverin

Jack Buchanan and Fiona Xu lead the Australian Amateur after the first round.
Jack Buchanan and Fiona Xu lead the Australian Amateur after the first round.

Cranbourne Golf Club produced cool and calm conditions that were conducive to low scoring on Tuesday and the first round leaders took full advantage at the Australian Amateur.

Glenelg’s Jack Buchanan stands alone at the top of the men’s leaderboard following a scintillating eight-under par opening round of 63, while New Zealand’s Fiona Xu is the solo leader in the women’s with a four-under 68.

Buchanan, the reigning Order of Merit champion, stamped his authority on the competition with an eagle and seven birdies to lead by one stroke.

The South Australian looked at home at Cranbourne despite having never seen the course prior to Monday’s practice round as he capitalised on the favourable conditions.

“It was pretty calm all day so it was perfect conditions to go out there and score,” Buchanan said.

“I started with what I thought was two birdies because I thought the first was a par-5 but it wasn’t. My eagle at the fifth was a good way to kick start my round. I just hit it down the middle then hit an iron to six or seven feet and rolled it in. 

“Being a few under at that stage, I was like ‘there’s plenty more holes out there to birdie’.”

That confidence to chase birdies was boosted by Buchanan’s runner-up finish at last week’s South Australian Amateur Classic and he now appears more determined than ever to capture a maiden title. 

“I’ve had a lot of runner-ups and I’ve played a few pro events recently and I think that’s changed my outlook at these events. Last week playing well gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.

Xu is also coming off the back of a second place finish at the Riversdale Cup earlier this month and began the day determined to get off to a good start.

“I definitely have gained confidence and motivation from Riversdale. It’s made me work even harder,” she said.

“I think that showed today as I played pretty consistently. There weren't any ups-and-downs throughout my round except for the last three holes. On 16 I had a double bogey but I quickly came back with a birdie on 18.”

The New Zealander, who calls Titirangi Golf Club home, carded eight birdies for the day but mishaps, like the double at 16, prevented her from going really low.

The conditions did get more difficult later in the day, however she believed the stronger winds actually helped her game.

“When the wind did pick up, it kind of helped me. It meant I was hitting down wind,” she said.

In the men’s, Royal Melbourne’s Connor McDade and Victoria’s Konrad Ciupek have played plenty of golf at Cranbourne and both are nipping at Buchanan’s heels after their seven-under par opening rounds.

The Victorians credited their familiarity with the course for their impressive showings and they expect to maintain that standard for the week due to the added comfort of sleeping in their own beds each night.

One shot back from them in fourth is last week’s South Australian Amateur Classic champion Connor McKinney, while Queenslander Dujuan Snyman is a further stroke behind.

Metropolitan’s Jeneath Wong entered the clubhouse with the lead after the morning groups had completed their rounds, but she finished the day tied for second alongside Queenslander Sarah Hammett at three-under par.

Wong played in a high-profile group alongside Order of Merit leader Caitlin Peirce (-2) and Kelsey Bennett (E), who has featured prominently on the WPGA Tour of Australasia this season, while Hammett was in the same group as Xu and junior star Justice Bosio (+1).

Peirce is joined by 15-year-old Victorian Molly McLean and Singaporean Aloysa Margiela Atienza in fourth place.

Women’s leaderboard

Men’s leaderboard

Round two tee times

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