Dubai: Local hero Ahmed Skaik is well positioned behind the favourites for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) after the UAE golfer’s two-under round of 69 left him just two shots off the clubhouse lead at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

All eyes were on Skaik at 7.15am as the UAE No.1 hit the first tee shot of the tournament, and the left-hander showed no nerves as he cracked his drive down the middle of the fairway.

Skaik carded birdies on 6, 8, 10 and 14, but after dropped shots on 7 and 18, he settled for a two-under 69, two behind a group including two-time champion Yuxin Lin of China and Japan’s Keita Nakajima. The amateur world No.1. Alexander Yang of Hong Kong, who carded two eagles and a birdie-birdie finish, also sits on -4 alongside New Zealand’s Jimmy Zheng and Wooyoung Cho of South Korea.

Skaik wasn’t fazed by the pressure of teeing off first. He said: “It’s an honour for me and I really enjoyed the experience. I was more excited than nervous.  To go out and shoot 2-under is pretty good and it is a shame I bogeyed the last, but it is what it is.”

The left-hander was happy with his game and enjoyed taking on the Creek course, a track he knows well. “I felt pretty good with my game off the tee, my irons and putting, and two-under is pretty good for me. I was trying to stay patient the whole round. You can’t force the putts in, so I was just trying to hit closer and closer and try to make the putts and hopefully tomorrow they roll in more,” he added.

Skaik, who is recovering from time out with a neck injury, hopes his course knowledge will enhance his chances in the four-day tournament, which offers the winner an invite to the Masters and The Open next year.

“Obviously, it’s much better when you stand on the tee knowing exactly where you’re going to hit it. You stand on a par 3 and know what you’re going to hit which is obviously an advantage,” added Skaik.

The Dubai Creek course has plenty of water in play, as Jun Min Lee found to his cost early on. The bubbly South Korean fell into the water along with his ball as he attempted a tricky shot from the rocks on hole 2, and then had to jump back in on discovering that his wedge had also fallen into the drink.

Lee remained upbeat though, and bounced back from the quadruple bogey to card a two-over 73. “Bad shots happen, and if you base your entire day off bad shots, you’re never going to be successful,” he said. “You’ve got to look at the positives of the day, and I think I putted pretty well for the most part, and hit really good iron shots, and had one bad hole. So, I’m pretty confident!”

About the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship:

The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was created in February 2009 as a joint initiative to grow the

game by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A. The 120-player field is annually comprised of the top male amateurs in the Asia-Pacific region representing the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation member organisations. The champion receives an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament and The Open, while the runner(s)-up gain a place in Final Qualifying for The Open.