Michael Regan Wong flew the flag for tournament hosts Hong Kong on day one of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club.
The 2014 Hong Kong Amateur champion recovered after a poor start to his round to finish with a 1-under-par 69 to lie in a share of 29th.
Wong, 18, lies seven shots adrift of China’s Jin Cheng, who celebrated Chinese National Day by firing a blistering 8-under-par 62 in benign conditions to establish a new course record.
Starting his round on the more difficult back nine, Wong was slow out of the gate with a bogey at the par-3 14th and a double bogey at the 17th, where he fanned his approach into trouble. Four birdies in five holes around the turn, however, smartened up his scorecard significantly and he was able to par his way in and complete his round just moments before play was halted because of bad light.
“I’m really happy with the way I fought back,” said Wong, who lies one shot ahead of teammates Motin Yeung and Oliver Roberts, who returned level-par rounds of 70. “Even though I made a couple of mistakes early on, I knew I was swinging really well. My putter just wasn’t working over the first eight holes.
“I knew I could hit the shots and fortunately it happened for me on my back nine.”
Wong, who is making his AAC debut, said he was buoyed by playing in front of his home galleries.
“I woke up this morning feeling pretty relaxed,” he said. “I wasn’t too nervous. I was more excited than anything to be playing in front of the Hong Kong crowds.
“So I’m feeling good. I’ll be hoping to build upon the finish I had and shoot a good score tomorrow.”
Yeung, who hit the day’s first tee shot to get the seventh edition of the AAC underway, had a round of contrasting fortunes. Standing at three-over for his round through 16 holes after three birdies and six bogeys, the 22-year-old, who attends Duke University in Durham, N.C., battled back with a birdie at the 17th and a brilliant eagle at the par-5 closing hole.
“I struggled quite a bit out there and I just tried to play with what I had,” said Yeung, who was part of the Hong Kong side that claimed a silver medal at the China National Games in 2013. “It was good to take the opportunities I had at the last two holes.”
In-form Leon D’Souza, who won last week’s Hong Kong Open Amateur Championship, could only muster a one-over 71, a score matched by teammate Matthew Cheung, while Isaac Lam, at 16 the youngest of the six Hong Kong representatives, was left to rue a quadruple bogey at the par-5 15th in his round of 73.
“With no wind the course was there for the taking, so a couple of the guys are disappointed with their scores,” said Hong Kong National Coach Brad Schadewitz. “We weren’t really able to take advantage of our local knowledge, but it’s still early. I know they’ve got some low rounds in them, so they’ll be looking to make a move tomorrow.”