Australia’s Wools-Cobb Posts Opening 63 to Lead AAC at Royal Wellington

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Australia’s Shae Wools-Cobb, 21, carded an eight-under-par 63 at Royal Wellington Golf Club Thursday to claim the first-round lead in the ninth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC).

The AAC debutant finished four shots ahead of his Japanese playing partner Sean Maruyama – son of three-time PGA Tour winner Shigeki Maruyama – Australian teammate Min Woo Lee, New Zealand’s Nick Voke and Lloyd Jefferson Go of the Philippines.

China’s Andy Zhang and Lin Yuxin each carded 69 to share sixth place with New Zealander Kerry Mountcastle, Chinese Taipei’s Wang Wei-hsuan and Indonesia’s Almay Rayhan Yagutah.

The day belonged to Wools-Cobb, who flew under the radar as the fifth-ranked Australian in the field before his 63 equalled the second-lowest round in AAC history. The championship rewards the winner with spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and The 147th Open at Carnoustie.

Starting with three successive birdies from hole 10, Wools-Cobb picked up another at 16 then flew ahead with an eagle at the par-five 18th to tie the championship record for low first nine (29).

The Queenslander then extended his lead with birdies on one, three and four before dropping his only shot of the day at the par-four sixth after he narrowly missed the green with his approach.

“I had so much fun out there and it was pretty stress‑free. I really enjoyed my day and hopefully I can do much the same in the last three rounds,” Wools-Cobb said.

“I holed some pretty good putts on the 10th and 11th and then hit it pretty close on 12, so that was a nice way to kick off the round,” he continued. “For the eagle, I didn’t hit the greatest drive, but it was down the middle. I didn’t really know if I wanted to go for the green, but I had to man up, then hit three‑wood to 20 feet and holed a really nice putt. I hit some good shots on my second nine to keep the momentum going.”

Maruyama, also making his AAC debut, started with an even-par first nine then collected five birdies and a bogey coming in, but the 17-year-old still felt overshadowed by his playing partner.

“The first nine was pretty tough. I missed a bunch of putts and hit my driver in the woods, but on the back nine I really got it going, my putter got hot and it was a great finish,” said Maruyama, who is in his final year of high school in Los Angeles.

“Playing with Shae motivated me, but it made my round look not so good,” Maruyama said. “It was great watching him. He was hitting it well every time and I think it got me going as well.”

Voke, New Zealand’s top-ranked amateur playing in his fourth AAC, also teed off on 10 and led the local charge with a bogey-free card, picking up birdies on hole Nos. 10, 17, 2 and 4.

Lee, 34th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, put to bed any pre-event concerns he had about having his coach Ritchie Smith as his caddie by carding seven birdies against three bogeys.

“I was a little worried about how it would go at first, but luckily it turned out really well. I thought we worked pretty well together,” said the 19-year-old Lee, who is in no rush to catch his compatriot. “Shae did have a good round, but I am going to stick to my game plan and not try to catch him. You don’t win it on Thursday; you only lose it on Thursday. I still have three more rounds so I will see how I go.”

The second round will begin Friday at 8 a.m. off the first and 10th tees at Royal Wellington. Spectators are encouraged to watch the drama unfold and entry is free of charge.

The AAC is organised by three Founding Partners – Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A. This week’s event features 116 players from 38 APGC member associations. Television coverage includes three hours of live broadcast on each of the four days and a 30-minute highlights show, and will be aired in more than 160 countries, once again making it the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament.