A gutsy birdie-birdie finish has helped Blake Windred preserve his overnight lead at the 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship as the weekend beckons in Shanghai.
The New South Welshman carded a 1-under-71 on Friday morning that could have been far less impressive, if not for a late burst on his way back to the clubhouse.
By the close of play his 18-hole buffer had been halved, with Korean Jun Min Lee and Japan's Ren Yonezawa firing matching 67s to climb to 9-under for the week.
Windred’s curling putt on the 9th lifted him to 10-under for the tournament, today's effort eight shots inferior to yesterday's extraordinary 63, but equally as important to the 21-year-old.
“That's the most pleasing thing about today,” Windred said. “Is hopefully that was my bad round and I ground it out quite well, so it's not really that bad. I’m still moving forward.
“The goal was basically shooting 5-under every round. So, I have a bit of work to do over the weekend, but so far, I'm on track.”
After teeing off the 10th, Windred suffered bogeys on 11 and 15 to slip back to 8-under for the week by the turn.
He dropped another shot at the daunting par-4 1st but rattled off a pair of birdies immediately to get things back square.
“[The morning] is just a little bit of different with a little bit of that fog or whatever, but there was initially a little bit of a difference,” Windred said.
“I prefer the afternoon, so the back nine I felt a little more comfortable with my numbers.
“Early on, it was like an eight-metre difference, at least, which is a lot when you're having a few 8-, 7-, 6- and 5-irons in.”
A three-putt bogey from below the hole on the par-3 4th was a shot gifted back but a brilliant par save from an impossible stance next to a bunker on 7 swung the momentum back.
Then, the Newcastle local caught fire on the back of a hooping draw off the tee over the trees on the 8th.
After laying up, he slotted another birdie try from below the hole, before lasering his approach from a fairway bunker on nine set up another birdie try.
His 15-footer hung on the edge but finally fell into the hole, Windred finishing his day with a birdie on the hole that played the hardest on the PGA Tour in 2019.
“At 9, I went a little bit too hard with a 3-wood and went in that trap. I had 175 to the flag. I practised that shot a lot, actually. I've worn out my 6-iron pretty much,” Windred said.
“I just hit a perfect 6-iron from 175 and left myself with a 15-footer… it's a little joke between my caddie and I, saying ‘let's just finish it off here’.”
And if he’s hoping for another sign that this might just be his week, Windred need look no further than his bagman, Jason McBeath.
A close friend of his and his father’s, Jason McBeath has caddied for Blake twice previously.
Both occasions resulted in wins, one coming in a club championship and the other at the 2019 Avondale Medal.
“He’s caddied for me twice, and 100 percent record," Windred said.
"We'll try and keep it that way this week."