New Zealand Eisenhower representatives Sam Jones (Manaia), Kazuma Kobori (Rangiora), and North Harbour professional Chang Gi Lee have all shot five under this afternoon to take the early ascendency over Mako Thompson (Maraenui) and Harry Bateman (PGA), who sit one shot back.

The two leading amateurs have recently returned from overseas and are lucky to have their own golf clubs. Kobori’s turned up at the start of the week, while Jones was lucky to even tee it up this afternoon, with his clubs arriving from Houston late last night.

The time away from his sticks did Jones a world of good, as he said he absolutely striped it today.

He teed off the first and was in red figures early with birdies in two and five. He bogeyed seven to turn in one-under-par.

Jones lit up the back nine with consecutive birdies on 12 and 13 and again at 17 and 18 to sign for 67.

He says it was a great day at the office.

“It was really nice today. Honestly, I striped it and didn’t miss too many shots out there. I hit plenty of greens and rolled the ball nicely with the putter. I didn’t do anything crazy and just made the lone bogey at seven, where I clipped the tree and got a bad bounce; other than that, it was really nice.”

Although it wasn’t all plain sailing leading up to the event, with his clubs sitting 11 thousand kilometres away in Houston at the beginning of the week. Thankfully, he was well-equipped for overseas travel and had Apple AirTags on his luggage, so he knew their exact location.

He says it’s been a rollercoaster couple of days.

“I was just really happy to get my clubs back, to be honest,” Jones laughed.

“I was going to try and get another set, but it wouldn’t have worked being a left-hander, so I probably wasn’t going to play if they didn’t turn up. I had Apple AirTags, so I could see them sitting there 11 thousand kilometres away in Houston.

“They’ve actually done well as I got back on Monday and got them last night.”

His Eisenhower Trophy teammate joins him at the top of the leaderboard after playing some solid golf of his own.

Kobori also teed off the first and made two birdies and seven pars in his opening nine to turn in a couple under.

He birdied ten, 11, and 12 to get to five under but dropped one on 14 and birdied 17 to match his Golf New Zealand National Academy teammate.

Kobori says he learnt a lot in his overseas travel, which he is putting into practice over the next few weeks.

“I’m kind of happy with how I played but a little disappointed at the same time as I left a few shots out there, but that’s a work-on for tomorrow and the next few days.

“I learnt that golfers overseas are very good at golf. They’re better than I thought, and it’s been a great experience as I knew that I needed to set my standards higher.

“For example, I would have been ecstatic with today's five-under round, but now I know that there’s still work to be done. If this was an event in the US, there is no way five under would be leading.

“Holding myself to higher standards is my current work-on.”

Fortunately for Kobori, he arrived back in the country earlier than Jones and wasn’t stressing about his clubs arriving in time.

Chang Gi Lee teed off seven this afternoon and got off to a fast start with birdies at eight and ten and an eagle at 12. His lone bogey of the day came at the 18th, but he made back-to-back birdies on four and five and signed for the clubhouse lead.

All three appear to be on the right side of the draw thus far, with the morning’s best round being one under.

Play gets underway at 8 am tomorrow.