Last updated 23:20, October 5 2018
Daniel Hillier bounced back from a frustrating opening round to fire himself into contention going into the final two days of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Singapore.
Capped off by a chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker on 18, the Wellingtonian carded a five-under 65 to improve to three-under at the Sentosa Golf Club on Friday.
Hillier, the pick of the six Kiwis in the 120-strong field, goes into the weekend in a share of 12th, five shots behind co-leaders Cheng Jin (China) and Lloyd Jefferson Go (Philippines).
“It was nice, almost a two shot swing there, it could have been very niggly,” Hillier said shortly after his bunker shot dribbled into the cup.
As good as it was, it won’t go down as the most crucial moment if Hillier kicks on and wins the title, which comes with invites to two majors next year, including the Masters at Augusta National.
After birding three of the first five holes to get under par, Hillier was in strife after his tee shot on the par four sixth landed deep in a divot in the fairway rough.
His second then plugged into the face of a bunker, forcing him to hit out and get up and down from the front of the green for a bogey.
“It was nice being able to do that, and I didn’t let it affect the rest of my round. It was quite a crucial moment,” Hillier said.
Ranked fifth in the field, seven birdies and two bogeys ensured his second round was a vastly improved from his two-over 72 on Thursday.
All six Kiwis made the cut (seven-over), with Denzel Ieremia and Charlie Hillier (no relation) tied for 15th, a stroke back from Daniel Hillier.
Ieremia briefly held a share of the lead after birdieing the first hole on the front nine to move to six-under in the morning. It was his fourth through the first 10 holes, before three bogeys and a double bogey undid his good work.
“To be honest, I played pretty bad all day. I hit it terrible from the get-go, I just holed some good putts on my first nine to the back nine, and then it just kind of caught up with me on the front,” he said.
The 22-year-old, having shot 68 on Thursday, produced two sweet putts on the back nine, including a 30-footer on the par four 14th.
It followed a 26-footer on 12, before he birdied 16 to turn in 32 on another typically muggy and hot day on Sentosa Island.
While Ieremia didn’t finish the way he wanted, all things said, he was content with his position ahead of the weekend.
“The last couple days, I just haven’t hit it the way I wanted, but I’ve managed my way around pretty solid. I’m actually quite happy for the way I’m going.
“I’ve played average but I’m in this position. If I play good, I’m sure I’ll have a shot at it on Sunday.”
Charlie Hillier also backed up an opening-round 68 with an even par 70 on Friday, although his card was far less colourful than Ieremia’s collection of five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Hillier, who hails from Te Puke, mixed two birdies with a pair of bogeys to remain in the hunt.
Kerry Mountcastle (E), Luke Brown (four-over) and Matthew McLean (five-over) are the other New Zealanders.