Victorian golfer Eccles second at NZ Open

After being whistled up off the reserve list to contest the NZ Open, Ben Eccles is making the most of it, with the Australian golfer second at the midway point.

LUCAS HERBERT of Australia plays a shot during the ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open at The Hills Golf Club in Queenstown, New Zealand.
LUCAS HERBERT of Australia plays a shot during the ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open at The Hills Golf Club in Queenstown, New Zealand. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Victorian golfer Ben Eccles is making the most of a late call-up to play the New Zealand Open, sitting outright second after two sparkling rounds in Queenstown.

Eccles capitalised on a dream start to Friday's second round at The Hills course, shooting a four-under-par 68 to climb to 10 under overall, one stroke behind leader Joohyung Kim.

Seventeen-year-old Korean prodigy Kim held onto his overnight lead, courtesy of a three-under 68, also at The Hills, one of two courses used for the Australasian Tour event.

Leading Australian Lucas Herbert and Thai Pavit Tangkamolprasert are in a share of third, two shots behind Kim.

Eccles is exceeding all expectations, having been added to the field from the reserve list on Wednesday morning, meaning a planned two-week holiday in New Zealand had to go on hold.

It is a welcome change of fortune for the 25-year-old, who is chasing his first win as a professional, although he had taken out the NSW Open in 2015 as an amateur.

He had a difficult 2019 season in Europe but confirmed his Asia Tour card last week and celebrated with an opening six-under 65 in Thursday's stormy winds which left him second overnight.

"Yesterday, I played awesome, in those conditions as well. It just all came together," he said.

"This morning, I got off to a fast start - eagle, birdie, birdie. It's awesome, it's an amazing feeling and, hopefully, I can keep going.

"I just wanted to keep enjoying it; that's been the main thing for me this week. The last couple of years, I haven't enjoyed it a hell of a lot out in Europe."

Conditions were kinder on Friday, with Tangkamolprasert's 64 at The Hills the round of the day.

Kiwi Kieran Muir was the best on show at Millbrook Resort, with his 65 leaving him level with Queenslander and former tournament champion Brad Kennedy in a share of fifth.


AAP