Korean teenage superstar Joohyung Kim shot a 7-under 64 in round one of the 101st New Zealand Open, presented by Sky Sport, to lead by one shot over Australians Wade Ormsby, Brad Kennedy and Ben Eccles.
The 17-year-old seemingly mastered the challenging winds that hounded Queenstown's Millbrook Resort early in the day before closing out his round with a birdie on the 18th.
“I managed myself really well and gave myself lots of good chances and made some good putts too,” Kim said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play well and I’ve also been working very hard. It’s nice to know that I can still post a good round after a month’s break.
“For tomorrow, I just have to play without any expectations and play the way I did today. A lot will also have to depend on the wind too.”
Queensland’s Brad Kennedy lead the way at The Hills course where he fired seven birdies, three bogeys and a lone eagle at 17 for a 6-under 66 opening scorecard to sit one shot behind Kim.
“It had everything. I thought it was going to hail there at one stage even,” Kennedy said of the weather.
“It was a totally different breeze to what we’re used to. Fourteen was down breeze, 15 was into the breeze so it was a totally different golf course. Luckily I didn’t even have a practice round this week so I just went from what I knew and it was a whole new experience.
“(It) actually caught me a couple of times so to get in the clubhouse with as many birdies as I had; it was a good fun round of golf.”
Low scores were there to be had late in the day at the Millbrook layout where both Wade Ormsby and Ben Eccles charged home for a share of second place.
Named as a reserve for the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour co-sanctioned tournament just yesterday, the late call up was a welcome surprise for the Victorian.
“It’s pretty awesome. I said to my best mate who’s caddying for me that I just want to enjoy the week whether I get in or not,” Eccles said.
“We got in yesterday morning so it’s a big bonus and to play like I did today was just awesome.”
Dying winds and a favourable breeze aided Ormsby’s birdie quest on the way to a bogey-free round of 6-under the card.
“I felt like we could have gotten the wrong side of the draw there pretty quickly so it was just a matter of hanging on early,” said Ormsby, who finished runner-up at the 2006 New Zealand Open in Auckland.
“I made some great up and downs on two and three and it was just a matter of hanging on. I started making some birdies back downwind there on seven, eight, nine.
“So that got a bit of momentum going and then I played nice around the back. The game feels pretty good, I putted nicely so I’m happy.”
Recent European Tour winner Lucas Herbert sits within two strokes of the lead alongside Terry Pilkadaris and Japan Golf Tour duo Kazuki Higa and Tatsuya Kodai.
Reigning champion Zach Murray completed his opening round at Millbrook Resort at 3-under the card after a bogey, followed by a double, reduced his 6-under lead.
Kiwi star Ryan Fox enjoyed a competitive start to round one but his total was also reduced to a final card of 2-under.