20 Dec 2022 | Industry news |

Clayton: A trip worth making

by Mike Clayton

Kingston Heath image
Kingston Heath is one of the four world class venues this week. Photo: Geoff Ogilvy Foundation

In another life Lawrence Donegan was the bass guitarist in the 1980s Scottish band, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.

Both Cole and Donegan are somewhat addicted to golf, and both, somewhat unsurprisingly, write beautifully about the game. In the mid 1990s, Donegan took to caddying for European Tour player Ross Drummond and wrote Four Iron in the Soul, a record of his time on a tour where stories of the curious lives of professional golfers abounded.

That might be too long a time to get to the point -- Lawrence arrived in Melbourne from San Francisco in the middle of last week with his son Niall to discover the joys, variety, and tribulations of golf on the sandbelt.

We took Niall around the four courses he would play this week in the Sandbelt Invitational and, aside from being astounded at the quality of Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne, Yarra Yarra and Peninsula Kingswood, he wondered what sort of winter he has flown into.

Locals will know just how atrocious Melbourne’s summer has been so far with only the Australian Open a couple of weeks ago escaping the truly awful – for us – weather.

We could only hope the opening day was something of an improvement, especially after Peter Fowler reported back from his Sunday practice round at Peninsula Kingswood in a 50-kilometre easterly wind.

Suffice to say, “unplayable” was a fair description of his round.

Monday dawned, a day of no wind, perfect temperature and with Kingston Heath playing beautifully the favourite, Cameron Davis was around in 65.

The Presidents Cup man made his only bogey at the very easy-if-you-hit-straight 3rd hole (the 13th for those who think of the course in its normal order) and six birdies to go with an eagle.

Someone in the gallery who had watched him play most of the way commented on his putting in the fashion of most amateurs commenting on golf pros putting.

They invariably assume a pro missing from eight feet is an avoidable blemish, an unforced error, when the percentage of putts an average PGA Tour player makes from eight feet if barely more than 50 percent.

Either way, Davis made his share and it’ll take some fine golf to beat him.

Last week’s winner at Warragul, Tom Power Horan, was next at 67 and playing the second day at his home course at Royal Melbourne won’t be a disadvantage.

Power Horan is one who constantly tinkers with his method but a visit to Brad Hughes in South Carolina condensed some ideas and he’s playing the best golf of his life. Hughes has spent a lifetime studying the golf swing and unlike some he tries to keep it somewhat simple, and Tom religiously does Hughes’ prescribed drills to train his body to repeat his swing.

Tinkering will drive you mad if you let it, but 67 was further evidence there if light at the end of the tunnel for the Royal Melbourne man.

Far from the worst round of the day was by Jazy Roberts from Bendigo.

The 17-year-old was a late replacement for Charlotte Thomas, who caught Covid on the way back from the LPGA Tour school last week. She slotted into the group with Geoff Ogilvy and hid what nerves she surely felt and was around in 73, one under the women’s par.

Her teacher, Richard Cooney, had to “encourage her” to play in the Australian Open where she made both cuts, an admirable effort for one with so little experience at that level.

“She needs refining, small things to improve but she’s a ripper and she plays golf really well,” said Cooney.

Playing with Ogilvy, who she bested by a couple of shots, is the sort of experience she can’t get anywhere but this week, and whilst Davis might be the likely winner, there is an impressive group of kids here who play some terrific golf.

We head to Royal Melbourne now for the second round with reasonable hope of more good weather and the excitement of walking and playing one of the greatest courses in the world.

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