Perth’s Min Woo Lee made a bold run through the Pacific Coast Amateur field today, but still lost ground to leader Austin Eckroat.
Lee, whose 20th birthday will fall during round four of the tournament at the famous Olympic Club in San Francisco, carded a three-under-par 68 on the five-time US Open venue to climb to a share of fifth at four under at halfway.
But one of only three scores better than Lee’s was turned in by American first-round leader Eckroat, who extended to an impressive 10 under and a three-stroke lead.
Still, on a course Lee regards as “very tough”, the first step in chase of the man who beat him by a stroke at the 2016 Sage Valley Invitational was impressive.
“If you shoot under par on this course, it’s a good score … so I’m pretty happy with that, especially given the way I’ve started both days,” Lee said.
“I’ve been over par for both rounds standing on the seventh tee, so if I can sort that out tomorrow, I will hopefully have a chance.”
In fact, Lee’s four-under total is made more impressive by the fact he carded two double-bogeys in the first five holes on day one.
“I’ve finished really well – four birdies in the last five holes yesterday and three under the last four today, so I just need to set myself up a bit better.”
Among that slew of late birdies, Lee has chipped in from rough around the 18th green on both days, prompting a fist pump and wry smile with Olympic Club member and caddie for the week, Max Plank.
“I was pretty happy with that shot today. It was only 12-13m from the hole, but I just had to really flop it on to the green and it ran out probably 25 feet and dropped in. Two days in a row, I couldn’t believe it!”
The surge left Lee as clearly Australia’s top hope at one of the main build-up events to next month's US Amateur championship at nearby Pebble Beach.
Another pair of West Australians, tough-as-nails Ben Ferguson (72) and the cerebral Kiran Day (73) joined Victorian Zach Murray (71) and Queenslander Charlie Dann (74) at one over in total in a log-jam for 27th place.
Melbourne’s David Micheluzzi fired a 73 to join Sunshine Coaster Shae Wools-Cobb (72) at three over, while Victorian Matias Sanchez showed promise in his 71 to sit four over.
There was also an impressive bounceback from Gold Coast-based Dylan Perry, who took 10 shots off a flat opening round today with a fine 69 to climb to six over without a bogey.