Kiwis light up Ten Nations Cup in George

Wednesday’s opening round of the inaugural Ten Nations Cup in George delivered a promising start for New Zealand, flair from French teenager Paul Ellisade, frustration for the host nation and an 18th hole ace that wiped out a maddening round for English amateur Jamie Rutherford.

At one stage or the other, all nine competing nations had a taste of the lead at Kingswood Golf Estate, but in the closing stages, it was the Kiwis that edged ahead to top the leaderboard at seven-under-par 209, two shots clear of Scotland.

The Scots in second lead Argentina by one and are three ahead of England in third on 212, while Ireland and Colombia are tied for fifth, five shots off the pace at two under 214.

France, boosted by a magnificent four-under-par 68 from the 17-year-old Ellisade, moved into seventh spot on 215, while Australia will start round two in eighth place on even-par.

South Africa’s 217 left them lagging in last place and the local heroes will have their work cut out to make up a whopping eight shot deficit.

Leading SA amateur Haydn Porteous (70), second ranked Zander Lombard (75) and new cap Louis Taylor (72) produced the counting scores, while Dylan Raubenheimer, another new cap, carded a 76 which was discounted.

Reigning SA Stroke Play champion Porteous dipped as low as four-under but bogeys at the ninth and 18th cut his advantage to two.

“It wasn’t the ideal start for any of us, but I am confident that we will bounce back,” Porteous said.

“I didn’t have the best round and the bogey at 18 didn’t help our cause either. I’m sure Louis and Dylan felt the nerves out there, but no doubt we’ll see a better performance from them on Thursday. And I expect Zander to bounce back, too. We’ll have to step up our game on Thursday.”

New Zealand number one, Vaughan McCall, led the way for the Kiwis with a nearly flawless three-under-par 69, while Josh Munn and Tyler Hodge boosted the team total with 70 apiece.

The four players all turned up sporting bushy sideburns, but although they bear a striking resemblance to the fictional X-Man character, the sideburns were not intended as a scare tactic.

“Since we’ve all been together since January, we decided to grow sideburns just to boost our team spirit, but we don’t mind if it intimidates a few people,” McCall laughingly explained.

McCall finished third in the individual competition at last year’s World Team Championships and is the only player with extensive international teams experience, but the Gore golfer said his team mates are equally capable.

“To be honest, I don’t think that I’m any better than them,” he said. “They have all three won tournaments recently and I don’t think I’m ahead of them at all. It’s nice for all of us to get our campaign off to a solid start in a competition like this, but you can’t get complacent.

“The course set-up will get tougher and the other teams will step up their game as they find their rhythm, so we will have to keep our focus if we hope to lift the Cup.”

Scotland’s Graeme Robertson matched McCall’s 69, while Fraser McKenna and James White provided the team’s other counting scores with 71s.

Robertson also expects the competition to heat up over the next three rounds.

“The organisers were pretty good to us today, putting a lot of the tees forward, so we were able to take advantage at some of the holes,” he said. “I think today was about as easy as it’s going to get. There is still a lot of golf to be played and we will have to dig deep to stay in the hunt.”

Meanwhile English amateur Rutherford enjoyed the thrill of shaving two shots off his total when he aced the par-three 18th from 118-yards to sign for a 71.

“I hit my tee shot and we all heard the ball connect with the pin,” he explained. “I was really struggling throughout the day and I figured, the way my round was going, I was probably in a greenside bunker. I was absolutely thrilled when we discovered my ball smack in the middle of the hole. Hopefully I’ll pick up where I left off tomorrow.”

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