World No.1 and defending champion Lydia Ko is handily placed after the opening qualifying round of the Australian Amateur Championships with a repeat performance tomorrow assured of seeing her advance to the elimination match play format.
The 15-year-old Kiwi carded a 4-under 69 at the Woodlands Golf Club in Melbourne today to sit in a tie for second with Tatiana Wijaya, one stroke behind West Australian Minjee Lee, a long-time rival.
Ko opened a busy 2013 programme with six birdies and two bogeys - both on the front nine - to predictably spearhead New Zealand's challenge for the team event.
She was well supported by Munchin Keh, who provided a polished 3-70 to start tomorrow's final qualifying round in a share of fourth, although Julianne Alvarez struggled before signing for a 5-over 78.
US-based Kiwi Sarah Bradley fared even worse with an 8-over 81 to virtually end her hopes of avoiding the cull when the field is trimmed to 32. Hanna Seifert is also on track for an early exit thanks to an 83.
Vaughan McCall, New Zealand's leading hope in the men's event, also endured a forgettable introduction with an 8-over 80 riddled with seven bogeys and a calamitous eight on the par-4 16th.
Tyler Hodge and Lachie McDonald were the only New Zealanders to beat par with 1-under 71s while Blair Riordan recorded an even-par 72, as did Sam An on the nearby Commonwealth Golf Club.
The top 64 men advance to match play so Keelan Kilpatrick (73) Peter Lee, Josh Munn (74) plus Bradley Kendall and Jonathan Ratcliffe (75) are still in contention to reach the next phase providing they can improve on their initial efforts.
Victoria's Todd Sinnott and Brady Watt (WA) set the early place with excellent 6-under 66s to be two shots clear.
- © Fairfax NZ News