Charlie Dann and a tribe of West Australians flew the Australian flag proudly today as the Pacific Coast Amateur began in San Francisco.
Sunshine Coaster Dann, already a huge fan of the Olympic Golf Club before he teed off, had three birdies in his two-under-par opening round of 69, just four from the lead of Oklahoma’s Austin Eckroat.
Also in the top 20 are Perth trio Kiran Day (-1), Min Woo Lee (-1) and Ben Ferguson (E).
“I was pretty happy with that,” Dann said.
“I hadn’t been driving it very well and to come here to this course where it’s really important to hit fairways and get that happening was great.
“I didn’t do anything flash, just hit fairways and greens … but that wasn’t a bad score around here. It’s a brilliant course.”
The four-round tournament, one of the primary lead-up events to the US Amateur, features a crack field with most in the world’s top-30 ranked players, but it was 99th-ranked Eckroat who lit up the famous US Open venue with five back-nine birdies to leap clear.
“I really played well on the back nine. I only made one putt that was a shock, a long putt on the back nine, but other than that everything else was solid. I made 15-footers and played really well,” Eckroat said.
His charge strung out the field, leaving some other fancied players a fair distance back, including Victorian pair David Micheluzzi and Zach Murray (both at +1), Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb (+2) and Melbourne’s Matias Sanchez (+4).
Only one Aussie, Gold Coast-based Dylan Perry, who uncharacteristically for the world No.23 struggled on the par-fives, is effectively out of contention after a flat 79.
Meanwhile, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Newcastle’s Blake Windred maintained his stellar form to qualify for the US Amateur.
Windred, who was runner-up at last week’s Porter Cup in New York, finished joint second again at six under after two rounds of the rain-delayed qualifier, but promptly birdied the first hole of a three-way playoff to book his ticket to the world’s most revered amateur championship.
He joins fellow New South Welshman Nathan Barbieri and Dann in advancing through qualifying, while Adelaide’s Lachlan Barker is among the alternates.
Lee, Micheluzzi, Perry, Wools-Cobb and Murray all qualified automatically courtesy of their world rankings.
The US Amateur will be played at legendary Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill from 13-19 August.