09 Feb 2021 | National Championships |
Favourites bounce from #AusAm blocks
by Mark Hayes
It’s one thing to be a favourite at the Australian Amateur Championship, another entirely to live up to the hype.
So it’s with great credit that arguably the four favourites for the women’s crown moved almost effortlessly to the top of the leaderboard after day one at Kooyonga in suburban Adelaide.
Youth Olympic champion Grace Kim, a member at Avondale in Sydney, showed how consistently impressive she has become with a short birdie putt on the last hole to hit the outright lead at four under in the breezier afternoon conditions.
Earlier, rapidly emerging West Australian Kirsten Rudgeley had set the morning benchmark with her own stamp of authority after a nervous beginning.
Her 69 left her just one behind Kim, with Gold Coast 17-year-old Hyejun Park (70) and Sydney’s Doey Choi (71) the only women under par.
Kim's explanation of how she conquered the tougher afternoon conditions explains her readiness for higher honours later this year when she's planning to turn professional.
"It wasn't easy out there, but it was scoreable," the recent NSW Amateur champ said.
"I started birdie-birdie on the (opening) par-5s, but I found the greens were firming up so I went down a club and really placed myself well on the fairways and that really helped."
Rudgeley nervously pulled her approach to the first hole and could have been excused for feeling the pinch of expectation.
But she needn’t have worried.
Rudgeley, arguably the biggest improver in Australian amateur golf in the past two years, effectively made no more errors en route to her three-under total.
The Mount Lawley member has more than held her own in competitions with men throughout the Covid period, including events around Perth, the WA Open and even at The Players Series in Victoria a fortnight ago.
Now back against her peers, it’s evident her game has sharpened appreciably.
“I played pretty steady all day, holed a few good putts and I missed a few, too, but that’s the way it goes,” she said before revealing her method of dealing with the hype.
“I spoke to Dad last night and he just said go out and have fun, enjoy it, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.”
Playing partner Park put aside a wild few minutes with a double-bogey on the eighth and bogey on the long ninth to made six birdies of her own to demonstrate her scoring power.
But the shot of her round ultimately resulted in a par.
Park had been dead centre in the par-5 16th fairway after her drive, but inadvertently snap-hooked her second and was forced to take an unplayable lie penalty.
Her fourth from the rough was also hampered by a tree in her backswing, but clubbing up to counter her shorter backswing, Park dazzled all who saw it by rolling up to within 50cm from just outside 120m and salvaging her five.
Choi closed both nines with bogeys, but was otherwise impressive and again looked right at home in Adelaide, where she has shone in several previous events.
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