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Bright start as McCall aims high at Clearwater

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
Vaughan McCall
SUPPLIED/New Zealand Golf
IN CONTENTION: Vaughan McCall.

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Southland amateur Vaughan McCall may have raised a few eyebrows near the top of the New Zealand Open leaderboard, but he rates himself a title chance.

McCall, 21, sits tied for fourth after shooting a one-under-par 71 in the first round yesterday, one of just a dozen players who bettered par in difficult, breezy conditions at Clearwater in Christchurch.

He trails Australian leader Craig Hancock by three shots and has his sights on more than just the leading amateur title.

"I think I'm capable of winning," the Eisenhower Trophy team member said.

"I've put my sights on getting myself into contention and giving myself a chance to win."

With plenty of talk around the field's highest ranked player Michael Hendry (74) and fellow Kiwis Mark Brown (72), Mahal Pearce (72), Ryan Fox (70) and Gareth Paddison (71), McCall flew under the radar pre-tournament.

He played sensible golf and when the wind picked up, managed to hold his nerve while most others faltered.

"I hit the ball really solid, which is just what you need to do out there in the wind.

"You need to strike the ball really well. I'm happy with how I'm hitting it and I rolled the rock really well too."

That "rolling of the rock" was highlighted with a monster birdie putt on the 157m par-three fourth.

Most impressive for McCall was how he played the front nine - his back nine.

Howling easterly winds made the seventh, eighth and ninth holes some of the toughest on the course and McCall managed them all well.

"I was one under at the time, going, ‘righto I've just got to finish strong and hold it together to stay under par' knowing that'll be a good finish.

"I made the mistakes minimal and the short game held me strong and I finished really well."

The draw did play right into the Kiwis' hands.

All the top New Zealand chances were off in the morning round yesterday and while they had to finish in the wind, they definitely had the better of the conditions.

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