11 Nov 2021 | Amateur golf |

Bennett, Porter in Abu Dhabi mix

by Golf Australia

Kelsey Bennett Abu Dhabi image
Kelsey Bennett focuses during her opening 66 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Australian Kelsey Bennett almost missed her tee time at the Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific championship in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday but by day's end, she was in contention. "I don't know, I had plenty of time," said the New South Wales star of her near-mishap in the opening round of the international competition at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.

"I was just in my own world on the putting green. I was just not focusing on where to be, which is silly, but I got there in time." It was a near-thing, though. "On the minute," said the St Michael's product. "I got there, pulled my driver out, and I teed off. He called my name first, and that was it." Bennett, 21, recovered brilliantly despite a double bogey at her fourth hole of the day, the 13th on the course, to shoot an opening 69 with five birdies to lead the group of five Australians in the field in tied-fifth along with Queenslander Cassie Porter. At three under par, Bennett, who was the winner of this year's Northern Territory Amateur and Tasmanian Open is three shots from the lead held by Thailand's Natthakritta Vongtaveelap who began with a 66 on Wednesday. Porter, 19, recent winner of the Keperra Bowl, also opened with a 69 to join Bennett in the top five at the prestigious championship. "It was good just to set a bit of a bar for myself," said Bennett. Asked how she had managed to steady herself after her shaky start, she said: "I just get myself in it and thought 'it's a marathon, not a race, so like a sprint'. So I thought, 'just take it easy, no bogeys for the rest of it. A few birdies, and you'll be back in it'." National junior champion Maddison Hinson Tolchard opened with a scrappy 73 while Isabelle Taylor (76) and June Song (78) made slow starts in the five-player Australian contingent. Leader Vongtaveelap has won 19 events already as an amateur and she has a two-shot buffer on the field following her seven-birdie round. She made a nervous start that saw her make an early bogey on the par-five second hole. She was rarely in trouble on the golf course after that and used her length off the tee to make rapid progress up the leaderboard. A group of three players from three different countries – Chun-Wei Wu of Chinese Taipei, Mizuki Hashimoto of Japan and Viera Permata Rosada of Indonesia – were tied in second place at four-under-par 68. “I was very nervous at the beginning," said Vongtaveelap. "My heart felt like it would jump out of my body. But I somehow managed to calm myself down by thinking that I can do it." WAAP is one of the most important events on the calendar for players from the Asia-Pacific region, with the champion golfer earning a place in two major championship fields - the AIG Women’s Open and the Amundi Evian Championship, as well as the Hana Financial Group Championship and an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

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