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Americans Todd Demsey and Josh Teater took advantage of early morning tee times on Thursday to post 7-under-par 65s and share the first-round lead in the Michael Hill New Zealand Open, the third and final stop on the Nationwide Tour's three-tournament swing Down Under.

Alex Prugh of Washington did the unthinkable, equaling the leaders with his own bogey-free 65 amid gusting winds in the afternoon to make it a three-way Yankee deadlock for first place.

Texas A&M grad Martin Pillar carded a 5-under 67 and is tied for third with Australia's Stephen Dartnall and Korean-born Seung-su Han.

Thirteen more players are knotted at 4-under 68, including Steve Alker, winner of last week's HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch. Sixteen of the top 19 players benefited from early tee starts at The Hills Golf Club, where calm conditions prevailed before afternoon winds picked up and held steady at 15-20 mph with some higher gusts.

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