Ropiha on track for third Taranaki Open title

FRONT-RUNNER: Former Taranaki player Troy Ropiha is chasing his third win in the Taranaki Open at Ngamotu. He leads heading into the weekend.
FRONT-RUNNER: Former Taranaki player Troy Ropiha is chasing his third win in the Taranaki Open at Ngamotu. He leads heading into the weekend.

Two-time Taranaki Open winner Troy Ropiha is on target for his third Charles Tour title.

The 30-year-old Taupo professional, who called Ngamotu home for many years as an amateur, posted a four-under-par 68 in the second round to jump into the lead at 11-under in the $40,000 72-hole event.

He leads New Plymouth amateur Brad Hayward and Auckland professional Fraser Wilkin by one shot.

On Thursday, Ropiha opened with a seven-under 65 in unusually benign conditions on the seaside course.

Yesterday, conditions were tougher with Ngamotu showing its teeth, and many players struggling with the wind and firmer greens.

Ropiha, a late starter on day two, didn't let that bother him.

As the wind strengthened, Ropiha posted one of the low rounds, finishing with a tap-in birdie on 18.

"I ground it out and at the end of the day, that is what golf is all about. It was still a really good day for Taranaki. It was probably a one club wind but that is nothing around here."

Ropiha should know, having won twice at Ngamotu - in 2008 as an amateur and two years later as a professional.

"I don't mind the tougher conditions. They limit the number of players who can score well around a course like this."

Hayward and Wilkin share second on 10-under heading into the final 36 holes - 18 today and 18 tomorrow.

Hayward backed up his first-round 65 with a three-under-par 69.

The 22-year-old was two-under through nine after birdies at 3, 4, 7 and 8, countered by bogeys on 2 and 9. He mixed things up on the back nine with three birdies, two bogeys and four pars to come home in 35 - one under the card.

"I played well but not as well as yesterday. But anything under par is good and I'm happy," Hayward said. "I had an up-and-down back nine . . . it was important to stay in touch."

Perhaps the secret was the small tin of chilli shredded chicken he consumed on the 14th tee.

His finish was par, par, birdie, par, birdie.

Rookie professional Wilkin carded a second successive 67 to climb into contention to win for the second time on the Charles Tour - he won the Muriwai Open last year as an amateur.

Twelve months ago, he won the amateur title at Ngamotu and putting was again the key to his success yesterday.

"I holed around four or five putts from 15 to 20 feet which are putts that don't usually drop for me," Wilkin said. "It was another up and down round but I'm happy to post another 67."

Sharing fourth on eight-under were Hamilton's Mark Purser and Waipukurau's Pieter Zwart.

Purser equalled Ropiha's 65 after opening with a one-under 71, while Zwart added a 69 to his opening 67.

First-round leader Daniel Pearce, who is one shot further back, couldn't get anything going.

In stark contrast to his first-round, eight-under-par 64, Pearce's putter ran cold until late in the round. He was three over the card for the day after 14 holes, then birdied the par-four 15th when his drive finished beside the green.

The Hastings-based pro almost drove 16, with a chip and a putt birdie getting him back to one-over, before tree trouble on 17 led to a bogey five. A birdie four finish eased some of the pain for Pearce to post a 73.

"It could have been worse, I'll take it," he quipped afterwards.

"I just didn't get my approach shots close enough and didn't drop many putts."

Pre-tournament favourite former European Tour pro Mark Brown, provided some fireworks with playing partner Cam Jones.

Brown's card was a mixed bag containing seven birdies, six pars and five bogeys. His birdies came on 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 15 and 18. With a first-round 68, Brown heads into the weekend at six-under.

Jones signed for a one-under-par 71 which included two eagles - one on the par five 7th and the other on the par four 15th when he drove the green. And he could easily have had a third, lipping out on 18 and settling for a tap-in birdie four.

Rookie Waikato professional Emily Perry bounced back in round two with a one-over par 73 to jump into a share of the lead in the women's competition with Manawatu amateur Emma Clayton at the halfway stage.

Perry, a former New Zealand amateur strokeplay champion, shot a six-over-par 78 in the opening round on Thursday.

Clayton shot a 78 yesterday.

Auckland rep Larissa Eruera is in third place after a six-over 78, with New Plymouth professional Sally Choi fourth after two rounds of 77. Manaia amateur Celeste McLean shares sixth after a round of 79 yesterday.


Leading scores after the second round of the Taranaki Energy Open:

-11 – Troy Ropiha (65, 68)
-10 – Brad Hayward (65, 69), Fraser Wilkin (67, 67)
-8 – Mark Purser (71, 65), Pieter Zwart (67, 69)
-7 – Daniel Pearce (64, 73)
-6 – Grant Moorhead (71, 67), Luke Toomey (69, 69), Mark Brown (68, 70), Clarke Osborne (67, 71)
-5 – Jon Bevitt (71, 68), Leighton James (71, 68), Dominic Barson (67, 72)

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