09 Feb 2021 | National Championships |
Favourites live up to #AusAm billing
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 when Kirsten Rudgeley nervously pulled her approach to the first hole at Kooyonga this morning, she could have been excused for feeling the pinch.
She needn’t have worried.
Rudgeley, arguably the biggest and most steady improver in Australian amateur golf in the past two years, effectively made no more errors and signed for a three-under-par 69 to lead after the morning wave.
She’s one clear of impressive playing partner Hyejun Park, of Queensland, who put aside a wild hour just before the turn to card a fine 70, including an extraordinary par on the long 16th.
Park had been dead centre in the 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 par.
But even that wasn’t enough to shake Rudgeley, who 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.
Early in the afternoon phase, Grace Kim also matched her expectation as favourite, nailing two birdies to join Park in the chase.
On the men’s side of the draw, Victorian Toby Walker was super impressive in making eight birdies and just two bogeys to lead with a 66.
Walker also left two eagle putts narrowly escape his clutches, else could have spaced the field even further.
But his closest pursuant is also no surprise with hometown fancy Jack Thompson almost ambling his way to a 67.
Thompson, who began on the 10th, was bogey free until the eighth and also left a couple of putts sitting on the edge.
Queensland pair Louis Dobbelaar and Lawry Flynn were among a group at three under, including impressive Tasmanian Joey Bower and young West Australian Tom Addy.
The hottest man early in the afternoon phase was also from Perth, with state team captain Haydn Barron pouring in three early birdies to start his chase.
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