Rookie Gates takes lead at NZ Open

Two of the overnight leaders at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open took advantage of the brilliant early conditions on day two of the event being staged at the Hills Golf Club near Queenstown in New Zealand's South Island.

Queenslander Andrew Dodt and American rookie Robert Gates were amongst the last to finish their opening rounds on day one but today they were out early and both quickly established a break on their co-first round leader David Smail.

Gates moved to 3 under when he birdied his third hole (the 12th of the course) after a wedge to 1 foot got his round moving in the right direction. He two putted for a birdie at the par five 13th then hit a superb 6 iron from 200 yards to set up his another at the 18th and made the turn at 10 under for the tournament.

He made the almost compulsory birdie at the 1st before adding two more at his 16th and 18th holes. His only blemish came at his 17th hole when he missed the fairway right and was long with his approach but he was delighted to be where he is both on the scoreboard and geographically.

He was at 12 under when he finished his round and led by one over Andrew Dodt who added a 69 to his opening 65 to be at 11 under.

"This is an awesome place to come and visit, said Gates who has his girlfriend and occasional caddy Lauren travelling with him.

"I am not capitalising on some of the easy holes but am excited to be leading. It is the first time to be leading and it will be a great learning experience."

This is Gates' very first event on the Nationwide Tour after a year on the Canadian Tour in 2009. He advanced through the first two stages of the PGA Tour School last year and earned his playing rights for this tour by finishing 42nd and only four shots from a card into the big time. I am excited about being here (the Nationwide Tour), it is a great opportunity. I was aiming at a PGA Tour card obviously but some guys who go straight to the PGA Tour struggle so this year will be a great learning experience.

For Dodt is was a solid round although bogies at the reachable par five 17th was frustrating and another at the par three 4th put a little dampener on what would might have been and even better start to the event.

Dodt is however making solid progress in his professional career and this provides an opportunity to fully test that progress when he plays in what appears as if it will be the final group on day three. He finished a very respectable 15th on the Asian Tour's order of Merit last year.

When the morning group had finished there was a three shot gap back to the group at 9 under which included Americans Darren Stiles, Kevin Chappell and D.J. Brigman.


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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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