Sampson Zheng breaks Royal Melbourne course record, leads at Asia-Pacific Amateur

Sampson Zheng didn’t let gusty winds affect his pursuit of perfection.

The senior at California carded one of only two under-par rounds Saturday at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Amateur at Royal Melbourne in Australia, and he did so in record-setting fashion. Zheng shot 6-under 65, breaking the amateur Composite Course record to take a lead with 18 holes to play and major exemptions on the line.

Zheng began the day T-13 and six shots back. One eagle, six birdies and two bogeys later, he has a four-shot lead in pursuit of a life-changing victory.

Earlier this year, Zheng won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball title and tied for medalist honors at the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver. Playing his best on the biggest stages is no surprise, but his performance Saturday stands out.

“It feels really nice,” Zheng said. “I mean, to be able to shoot 65 like I did in the condition like this today where everyone else is not having the best, it feels even more special.”

In August, Zheng was a part of the winning Asia-Pacific team to win the Bonallack Trophy in Spain. The person who held the Composite Course record at Royal Melbourne? Sir Michael Bonallack, as well as first-round leader Kazuma Kobori, who tied the 5-under 66 mark Thursday.

Zheng leads by four over home favorite Billy Dowling, who has four wins since August and is making his first appearance in the Asia-Pacific Amateur.

The winner gets an exemption into the 2024 Masters as well as the Open Championship at Royal Troon. They will also be exempt from qualifying for the Amateur Championship.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek