Kiwi teenager takes fight to Aussies at ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

A teenage amateur from Manor Park has shaped as the best chance of breaking up the Australian dominance led by Terry Pilkadaris heading into the final round of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open.

Kiwi teenager Daniel Hillier checks out his spot on the leaderboard –

Wellingtonian Daniel Hillier, 19, fired in the best round of his life at the Millbrook Resort, but it will take something special for anyone to haul in a rampaging Pilkadaris, who leads the tournament by five shots at 24 under.

Hillier is eight shots off the lead after three days of low-scoring golf which could see Kel Nagle’s 26 under New Zealand Open win in 1964 put under threat.

The amateur drained a long putt on the 18th to put an exclamation mark on a back nine which included just one blemish and saw him come home in 30.

“I think in the circumstance, it was the best round of my life. I started the day slowly but managed to get a few putts halfway through and kept trucking from there,” he said.

“It is the first time I’ve been in contention in the New Zealand Open. I am looking forward to what is ahead and quite excited as well. I have a great support crew here.”

Pilkadaris, who has been waiting 13 long years since his last professional win, could barely believe his luck as he poured in the best round of the day to extend his overnight lead.

His scorecard resembled a Labour campaign poster by the end of the day, red numbers littering the back nine as he come home in 30.

“That was unbelievable. I was hitting some putts towards the end there and they were going in and I was like ‘wow’. I was just trying not to get in my own way in the end.”

That was despite a bad stomach which forced Pilkadaris to make a quick trip into a Millbrook resident’s house near the 12th hole to use the facilities.

“I was trying to be as quick as I could because I knew everyone was on the green, but as I was leaving I said thanks for the hospitality and they told me I wasn’t the first. I was just lucky it was there.”

Terry Pilkadaris is in action on the tee and approaching the green in the third round –

Pilkadaris was planning on cooking some sirloin for dinner and switching off before pushing towards his first win since the 2005 Brunei Open.

“I don’t know, I cooked myself breakfast and I got sick so I don’t know what’s going on.”

Callan O’Reilly was keeping pace with his compatriot Pilkadaris through the first half of his round, taking a share of the lead with an eagle on the par 5 No 10.

Two bogeys on the back nine put a halt to his momentum and he had to settle for five under for the day and 19 under for the tournament to be five shots back in outright second, a shot ahead of Australian Daniel Nisbet at 18 under.

Australians David Bransdon (eight under) and Harrison Endycott (five under) and American Jarin Todd (six under) are all 17 under, with Hillier the leading Kiwi at 16 under.

Earlier in the day, Nick Flanagan continued an encouraging week with his first hole-in-one in a professional tournament.

The Australian has had a tough time of it since first qualifying for the PGA Tour over a decade ago, a thumb injury and back issues meaning the 33-year-old is now rebuilding his career and had to qualify to be included in this week’s field.

He narrowly made the cut for the weekend, but his ace on the 123m par 3 No 2 at Millbrook helped him to six under for the round and a share of 22nd place going into the final round.

“The ball has been getting to the hole quick the past few days so I took a little bit off and hit it perfect,” Flanagan said.

“It landed a foot short, went past, spun back and took a while to spin back in. You never expect them to go in and then they disappear, so it is always a good one.”

It was the second ace of the tournament, after a Japanese amateur managed the feat at The Hills.

Meanwhile, there will be no skateboarding antics for rookie New Zealand professional Nick Voke.

Voke, who was paired with Korean golfing star KJ Choi through the first two rounds, still sports an impressive scar on his shoulder from a skateboard accident during his time at Iowa State University.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of. The atmosphere around the Asian Amateur was pretty special – this is my first time at the New Zealand Open and this is pretty special,” Voke, who is tied for 12th, nine shots behind Pilkadaris, said.

“My family are in town, which is pretty cool. I think this is the second time they have ever seen me play golf.”

Sunday’s final day will see golfers off from around 7.30am with the leaders expected to tee-off by 1pm at Millbrook Resort.

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