On a day when Australian hopes largely took a beating, Blake Windred and Jack Trent stood tall as the US Amateur began in North Carolina.
Windred, the world No.11, played an exemplary back nine on the No.4 course at Pinehurst to race through the field on the first day of two stroke play qualifying rounds.
The Novocastrian stumbled from the blocks and was two over after three-putting the eighth hole, but peeled off five birdies from that point to card a fine three-under 67.
“I felt pretty good, pretty comfortable,” Windred said.
“It was quite hot out there early and then that back nine we just had really, really good conditions. I was able to take advantage of it, so I was pretty pleased with the round in the end.”
Windred said patience through his early troubles was the key to his round.
“(The birdie on nine) kind of got me back and then I hit a few more good shots,” he said.
“I really nailed a couple of putts and a couple of shots that enabled me to make pretty nice birdies, especially on a couple of the hard holes, too.
“So I was very, very happy with it.”
That was good enough to share fourth position on a day when almost all the leading scores were returned on the No.4 course, with a handful of Aussies battling hard on the nearby No.2 beast.
Another to shine on No.4 was American-based Queenslander Trent, who returned a quality 68 that also featured a rash of late birdies.
But it was not so promising for the other four Aussies in the field of the world’s leading amateur event.
World No.3 David Micheluzzi turned at four over after starting on the 10th and eventually found a birdie on the long par-four fourth to stem the bleeding and finish at five over.
Remarkably, in a group with world No.1 Cole Hammer and No.2 Conor Gough, that was the only birdie of the glamour trio’s day. Hammer also finished at five over, while Englishman Gough is effectively finished at nine over.
New South Welshman Jordie Garner returned a fighting 73 to sit three over on the No.4 course, but the gloss came off it late with a double-bogey seven on the par-five 17th.
His NSW state teammate Josh Armstrong made his share of birdies on the tougher No.2 course, but suffered through three double-bogeys to finish at six over.
Florida-based West Australian Karl Vilips began disastrously on the No.2 course, making six straight bogeys before two pars after starting on the 10th.
But it became even worse for the soon-to-be dual Junior Presidents Cup representative when he doubled the 18th and turned in eight over.
Vilips fared much better on the front nine with three birdies, but still has much to do from his seven-over-par total.
The top seven scores were all returned on the No.4 course, meaning it’s hard to gauge respective positions until the players switch for tomorrow’s second round.