Team USA leads at halfway point in Abu Dhabi

The United States of America’s Nick Dunlap, who is No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR®, tallied seven birdies en route to a 5-under 67 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to position the Americans one stroke clear of France and the People’s Republic of China through the second round of the 33rd World Amateur Team Championship.

“I just like the vibe out here,” said Dunlap, the 2023 U.S. Amateur champion. “It’s a little bit different so I’m just trying to embrace it. There are a couple holes that I like hitting 3-wood where a lot of people are hitting driver, so I’m trying to play to my strengths and play to what looks good to my eye and go from there.”

USA also used a 2-under 70 from world No. 2 Gordon Sargent, who officially earned PGA Tour membership on Wednesday via PGA Tour University Accelerated, for a two-day total of 16-under 272. After a slow team start, Dunlap and Sargent combined for five birdies during a four-hole stretch at the conclusion of their first nine.

“This team had another really good day,” said USA Captain Mark Newell. “It started out kind of challenging out there, but they really turned it on around the turn (team started on No. 10) and played some really good golf in conditions that were reasonably challenging with the heat and the wind.”

France, which held a share of the lead at the start of the day, was led by 15-year-old Hugo Le Goff’s 4-under 68 and a 2-under 70 from 2023 U.S. Open qualifier Bastien Amat. Hugo, a 2023 R&A Boys’ Amateur semifinalist, had an eagle and three birdies through his first seven holes.

“He’s one of the youngest players on the course, but he looks like a very experienced player when you see him play,” said French Captain Antoine Delon. “Very professional on the course and very steady for the team.”

The People’s Republic of China, which finished in a tie for 31st last year in France, moved up six places on the leader board on the strength of a 5-under 67 from Zihang Qiu and a 4-under 68 from Justin Bai, who has committed to play at the University of Washington in 2024.

“We’ve had a very good start in this tournament, much better than last year,” said the People’s Republic of China’s coach Zheng Pang. “Our players played very good and very smart. They just played their tempo.”

Australia remains two strokes behind the USA in a tie for fourth place with Czechia on the strength of another steady day from two-time Australian Junior Amateur champion Jeffrey Guan and Stanford University senior Karl Vilips. Guan and Vilips, who qualified for the 2023 U.S. Open, traded a pair of 67s and 68s during the first two rounds to lead the Aussies to a 14-under total of 270.

Frederik Kjettrup rebounded from an opening-round 75 with a 5-under 67 on Thursday to position Demark in a tie for sixth alongside Argentina at 275. Jacob Skov Olesen added a 71 for Denmark.

“It’s nice that the guys had my back when I didn’t play very well yesterday, and I got to put a good round in to help the team today,” said Kjetterup, who is No. 15 in the WAGR® and a senior at Florida State University. “I was hitting it good today. I could have holed some more [putts] from 10-25 feet, but once I started hitting [approach shots] inside 10 feet, I was making some birdies and that was good.”

Completing the top 10 are Mexico and The Netherlands with team totals of 12-under 276.

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