05 Nov 2021 | Amateur golf |

McKinney makes a move at Asia-Pacific Amateur

by Dane Heverin

Connor McKinney lines up a putt on the 18th green in the second round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
Connor McKinney lines up a putt on the 18th green in the second round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

Australian Connor McKinney has a share of second place at the halfway mark of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

McKinney fired a six-under par round of 65 on Thursday to move to seven-under par for the tournament and the West Australian said he is "where I want to be after 36".

His round was highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 15th, but he got the momentum going with four birdies on the front nine.

"I got off to a pretty good start. Holed a couple good putts. Chipped in on 9 which is a bonus and I played pretty solid from there on in. Didn't put myself in any bad positions. If I did, I recovered pretty well," McKinney said.

The 19-year-old, who was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, but moved to Perth, Australia, six years ago, is now dreaming of having his name engraved on the trophy.

"At the start of the week, I thought it would be pretty cool. I'm in a great position to do it but still 36 to go. Just sticking to the game plan, doing what I do," he said.

Fellow Australian Hayden Hopewell continued to make steady progress with a two-under par round of 69 that puts him T10, meanwhile overnight co-leader Lukas Michel slipped to T15 after an even-par second round.

Michel once again played impressive golf, but he dropped three shots on the closing two holes to fall back into the chasing pack.

"I played well. Got off to a good start. Reeled off a few birdies early. Got it to 3-under through 10. Was still playing pretty well then came down the stretch at 17 and 18, actually hit it exactly where I was aiming because 17, no one is really aiming at that fairway with the Dubai Creek on the left, so I was hanging out there and hit a tree and bounced back into a really bad lie," Michel said.

"I tried to get it toward the grain, missed the grain, didn't get up-and-down to bogey and on 18 hit driver where I was aiming because I didn't want to go left into the creek, put it in the bunker. It was a tough shot. I tried to hit a shot on to the green and just wasn't happy and splashed in the water and didn't get up-and-down and double-bogeyed. Didn't feel like I did too much wrong but a few bad breaks caught up with me."

All six Australians in the field made the cut as Andre Lautee (-2), Lachlan Barker (+1) and Haydn Barron (+1) also progressed to the weekend.

At the top of the leaderboard, China’s Bo Jin fired a bogey-free, seven-under-par 64 to grab a one-stroke lead.

The 19-year-old from Beijing moved to eight-under-par 134, one ahead of a group of five players tied for second place at 135, including the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking ® (WAGR ®), Japan’s Keita Nakajima (68), Australian Connor McKinney (65) and the Korean trio of Sam Choi (68), Baekjun Kim (66) and Wooyoung Cho (68).

Defending champion Yuxin Lin of China made a double bogey on the par-4 closing hole and dropped down to four-under-par 138, four strokes off the lead.

Jin is the younger brother of Cheng, winner of the 2015 AAC at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club in Hong Kong. A sophomore at Oklahoma State University, Bo also happens to be a very good friend of Rayhan Thomas, the 2018 AAC runner-up who holds the course record at Dubai Creek. At the Mena Tour’s Dubai Creek Open in 2017, Thomas fired a 61 that included a record-breaking run of nine consecutive birdies in a professional tournament.

“I have learned a lot from Cheng but when we get to the golf course, I definitely want to beat him. When he won the championship, I was so excited because it meant that I could go to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club along with him. Obviously, he hasn’t told me much about this golf course but I get plenty of good insight into life and golf from him and yes, I want to win the championship like he did,” said Jin, who made five birdies on the back nine.

“Rayhan is a great guy and a very good friend of mine. We sat down before coming here, and he gave me a lot of good advice, like how grainy the greens become and how to putt on them. And how the course is rather short and why I should practice my wedges more than my long irons, and things like that. It definitely played a role in my round today.”

On his round of 64, Jin added: “I just played really well. Putting wasn’t the best but I hit it pretty well and pretty close to the hole and grabbed one or two on the front nine. Then on the back nine everything started rolling in, which was pretty awesome.

“The biggest change from the first round was the double bogey I made on the ninth hole yesterday. It was mental mistakes really. And I am happy that I did not repeat them today.”

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