Michael Hendry is looking to add another piece of New Zealand golfing history to his trophy cabinet with the Renaissance Brewing New Zealand Stroke Play Championship. Hendry took advantage of the benign conditions this morning at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club and fired an opening round of six-under 65 to be tied at the top with amateur Tyler Wood and Mark Brown. After a successful stint over the ditch on the PGA Australia Tour, Hendry was surprised he posted the score he did as his preparation wasn’t up to his usual standards having spent 14 days in isolation.
All things considered; he was happy with his day out there. “I’m quite surprised to be honest. After coming home from Aussie and spending two weeks in isolation and not having great preparation it’s pretty awesome to post a score like that. “I had a really good campaign over the ditch, and I played really well. I came back to isolation obviously full of confidence in the way I’m playing and mentally I found the isolation pretty easy to get through.“It does seem like it takes a long time but I was really surprised with how hard it hit me physically despite all the stretching and working out as much as I could given the facilities. Not hitting a ball everyday, I got just stiffer and stiffer and it’s really physically demanding to get back to a level where I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. “I’m just hoping I start to feel a little better after each round,” he explains.
Starting the day on the 10th, he struggled to get anything going early and was even-par for the day walking up the 18th, his ninth hole of the day. He proceeded to roll in a 60-foot eagle putt to make the turn at two-under and kick himself into gear. He made four more birdies on the back to get in the club house in the lead.
Hendry says it’d mean a lot to add another piece of golfing history to his cabinet. “I’ve won the New Zealand Open and the New Zealand PGA Championship; it’d be pretty cool to add the New Zealand Stroke Play to the cabinet as well. It’d be nice when I finally hang up the boots to be able to look back and say that I’ve won all the big New Zealand golf tournaments. “I didn’t do too much as an amateur obviously, I had a short amateur career before I moved into the professional ranks. To have a chance to win a tournament I felt may had passed me by would be pretty cool,” he says.
The wind started to pick up as the afternoon’s play got underway, but that didn’t seem to deter Tyler Wood who equaled Hendry’s lead late in the day, and is in the solo lead for the St Andrews Salver which goes to the low male amateur of the event. Wood began on the first and opened with five straight pars before making back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth, and made the turn at two-under par. He made back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th and then again at the 17th and 18th holes to tie the lead. Woods says it was a good day’s work, and he’s pleased to be competing against the best players in New Zealand. “It was a long day but I’m happy with it. It got pretty windy out there this afternoon and a little nippy but all in all, I’m happy. “As this is now a Jennian Homes Charles Tour event we are playing against a stronger field and against some of the best players in the country which is what it’s all about,” he explains.
Wood had some wise sporting pedigree in former All Black Christian Cullen pulling his bag today which he said paid dividends. “It was really good having Christian Cullen on the bag today and he managed to rub of some of his sporting expertise on me and kept me levelheaded when I got a little excited. “It was a great day out there with him and I’m happy with how I performed.”
Mark Brown joins the pair at the top of the leaderboard on six-under as well. Meanwhile Sumin Kang and Lizzie Neale are tied at the top for the Mellsop Cup which is given to the leading women’s amateur at four-under par. Kang got her campaign off to a hot start early this morning off opening with three-under on the which included two birdies and an eagle. She made three more birdies on the back but had two bogeys and signed for a round that wouldn’t be beaten. 
Tasman’s Lizzie Neale did her best to catch Kang with a blemish free four-under round of her own. Neale made birdies at the 12th and 18th holes to make the turn at two-under par and put herself in a good position to attack the front nine [her back nine]. She made two further birdies at the sixth and seventh to get to four-under and tie Kang’s lead, and get her quest of capturing the Mellsop Cup off to a great start.
Play gets underway today from 8 o’clock.
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