After two rounds at Royal Melbourne, the Australian flag is flying atop the leaderboard at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, but a former champ remains in contention.
Antonio Murcada followed a first-round 69 with a 4-under 68, and at 7 under he holds a one-shot lead over fellow Aussie Todd Sinnott at the halfway point, with the winner receiving a spot in the 2015 Masters.
Guan Tianlang, who won the event in 2012 and became the youngest-ever Masters participant at age 14, sits in a tie for fifth after rounds of 68 and 73. Guan's second round was an eventful one, with five birdies countered by six bogeys, including a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 10-16 in which he did not make a single par. He sits four shots behind Murcada heading into Saturday's third round, which also coincides with his 16th birthday.
Murcada, 19, barely qualified for the event - he is the ninth-ranked Australian amateur and only earned a spot when the country's allotment was expanded to 10 spots as host country. Following a second round that featured five birdies against just one bogey, his focus remains on the task at hand.
"I'm pretty confident. I'm quite happy with my game," Murcada told reporters. "All I'm looking to do is hit great shots, one after the other. So I'm not going to try to think too far ahead at the weekend."
Other contenders through 36 holes include Cheng-Tsung Pan, who previously qualified for the U.S. Open in both 2011 and 2013 as well as the 2014 Open Championship. Pan is tied with Guan at 3 under, four shots back, after a second-round 68.
This year marks the first time the event has been held outside of Asia, and several Aussies are putting their local course knowledge to use. Four Australians are among the top 10, including 16-year-old Ryan Ruffels, a member at Royal Melbourne who sits alone in ninth place after consecutive rounds of 1-under 71.
U.S. Amateur champ Gunn Yang struggled to an opening-round 81, but Yang - who already has a spot in next year's Masters - bounced back with a 1-over 73 to make the cut by a shot.
In addition to a spot in the Masters, the winner will also be exempt into the final stage of qualifying for the 2015 Open Championship.