Have you heard the one about the New Zealander, playing out of Carnoustie, competing in his first Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship who holed two shots en route to the third round at Prestwick? No. Then read on...
For Liam Balneaves, it really was a day to remember on the famous Ayrshire links as he produced one of the stories of the week. While more fancied players continued their progress, the scratch handicapper composed a remarkable round to beat Rory Smith from Dalmahoy 4&3.
The 29-year-old hails from Invercargill but has been living in Scotland for the last four years, with his mum and dad both born here. Working out of the famous Auchterlonies golf shop in St Andrews, he has kept his eye in on the golf course ahead of returning to his native New Zealand next month.
That was never truer than at a rainy Prestwick where he produced the third hole-in-one of his golfing life at the second hole with a well-struck 8-iron, before holing from 145 yards with a 9-iron for an eagle at the 12th. His opponent, Smith, probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“I felt sorry for Rory, I did,” admitted Balneaves. “It was a crazy day, I’ve never had anything like it in golf. I’m hitting it really good. I love the course, and it’s fun for matchplay.”
Elsewhere, top-ranked players also handled the conditions. There were comfortable early second-round victories for favourites Craig Howie (Peebles) and Sandy Scott (Nairn, above), who have now set up a mouthwatering meeting in the opening match of the last-32.
Craig’s younger brother, Darren, was also a notable winner, taking out fellow Scotland internationalist Rory Franssen with a 3&2 triumph. Kirkhill’s Craig Ross continued his progress, as did Ryan Lumsden from Royal Wimbledon, who represented Scotland in the recent European Amateur Team Championship.
Another ex-Scottish Boys’ champion, Carnoustie’s Will Porter, also showed his liking for matchplay once more by beating Lewis Irvine.
While Walker Cup captain Craig Watson from East Renfrewshire bowed out, losing 3&2 to Calvin Cheyne from Newmachar, another intriguing story could unfold as Australia-based Scot Robbie Morrison, who plays out of Royal Perth, progressed after beating Brendan McKenna (Pollok) 4&3.