Latecomers steal Smail's thunder

The first round of the Michael Hill New Zealand Open has been completed in perfect conditions at the Hills Golf Club in Queenstown and late in the day American Robert Gates and Queenslander Andrew Dodt would join the early leader, David Smail, as the first round leaders.

Dodt was out in the second to last group of the day and reeled off four consecutive birdies in his final four holes to finish with a round of 65. The 24 year old has played in Asia for the past two years and has often shown that he is a player capable of graduating to a very high level in the game. He finished 15th on last year's Asian Tour money list.

Gates is playing his very first event on the Nationwide Tour after a year on the Canadian Tour. He graduated through the first two stages of USPGA Tour qualifying before missing out at the final stage. His efforts were rewarded however when he earned playing status on the Nationwide Tour and he has made an immediate impact with this impressive opening round.

Gates actually made an even more immediate impact when he eagled the very first hole of his Nationwide Tour career. There were two bogeys in his round of 65 but seven birdies and an eagle and now he and Dodt have the chance to consolidate and improve their position when they head out with early tee times tomorrow.

The trio lead by one shot over Andrew Bonhomme and D.J. Brigman with a large group of with eight players at 5 under and just two out of the lead.

The weather and conditions were such today that 82 players broke par suggesting that a score of around two or three under might be needed to make the weekend. That prediction will of course be subject to the conditions the field faces on day two.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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