Connor McKinney in action in round two – photo AAC

Perth’s Connor McKinney is just one off the halfway lead at the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Dubai, the 19-year-old Scottish born golfer, reeling off a round of 65 over the Dubai Creek layout to trail only China’s Bo Jin at the completion of 36 holes.

McKinney, who moved to Australia with his family six years ago, heads the six strong Australian contingent in the prestigious event in which the winner receives a start at the Masters and the Open Championship in 2022.

The highlight of McKinney’s round came at the par 5 13th where he pitched in for eagle from 103 yards and although he bogeyed the 15th to drop out of what would have been a share of the lead he is delighted with his position.

“Yes, I am just where I wanted to be after 36 holes,” said McKinney. “I got off to a pretty good start. I holed a couple of good putts. I played pretty solid and didn’t put myself in any bad positions. If I did, I recovered pretty well.

“At the start of the week, I thought it would be pretty cool (to win this event). I’m in a great position to do it but still 36 to go. Just sticking to the game plan, doing what I do.”

Although how representing Australia, McKinney’s heritage is very much Scottish, having been born and raised in Fife and having played much of his formative golf in the British Isles even in more recent years.

Just two years ago as a 17-year-old McKinney represented Great Britain and Ireland in a Boys match against Europe but he is now in the Australian camp. In 2021 McKinney has also played several events in the US where his best finish included a 3rd place finish at the Southern Amateur Championship.

Two shots behind McKinney, is yet another Perth golfer, Hayden Hopewell, who added a round of 69 to his opening 68 to be three from the lead and tied for 10th.

Victorian Lukas Michel is another shot back in a share of 15th place although the former US Mid Amateur Champion will be ruing dropping threes shots at the final two holes including a double bogey at the last after finding the water to drop four shots from the halfway lead.

All six of the Australians made the cut restricted to the leading 50 players and ties.

Andree Lautee is tied for 22nd, while Lachlan Barker and Haydn Barron are tied for 41st at 1 over and nine shots from the lead.

New Zealand’s only competitor in the event, Jimmy Zheng is also well enough placed in a share of 15th and just four from the lead. Two late birdies saw him recover from a slow start on day two for a round of even par 71 after he had opened with a round of 67 on Wednesday.

“I’m definitely going to take notes from today’s round,” said Zheng. “I’m going to work on keeping myself calm and stable, throughout the round. I started off a bit fiery, trying to make multiple birdies. It didn’t really work out that well. I will just stick to my game plan and stay calm and try to keep the ball close to the hole, while keeping it safe at the same time.”

The leader, Bo Jin is the younger brother of Cheng Jin, winner of the 2015 AAC at Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club in Hong Kong. A sophomore at Oklahoma State University, Bo also happens to be a very good friend of Rayhan Thomas, the 2018 AAC runner-up who holds the course record at Dubai Creek.

At the Mena Tour’s Dubai Creek Open in 2017, Thomas fired a 61 that included a record-breaking run of nine consecutive birdies in a professional tournament.

“I have learned a lot from Cheng but when we get to the golf course, I definitely want to beat him. When he won the championship, I was so excited because it meant that I could go to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club along with him.

“Obviously, he hasn’t told me much about this golf course but I get plenty of good insight into life and golf from him and yes, I want to win the championship like he did,” said Jin, who made five birdies on the back nine.

“The biggest change from the first round was the double bogey I made on the ninth hole yesterday. It was mental mistakes really. And I am happy that I did not repeat them today.”

World number one amateur, Japan’s Keita Nakajima, is just one off the lead and also tied for second place while two time winner of the event, Yuxin Lin, is tied for 15th and four behind the leader.