21 May 2022 | Professional golf |

Hillier, Kennedy lead in France and Japan

by PGA of Australia

Whitney Hillier and Brad Kennedy.

By Tony Webeck

Hillier aces her way to lead in France

A fifth career hole-in-one has elevated West Australian Whitney Hillier to a one stroke lead at the Ladies European Tour’s Jabra Ladies Open in France.

Winner of the teams event in Bangkok last week, Hillier is still chasing her maiden individual title in Europe and bolstered her chances significantly with an ace at the par-3 eighth hole in Friday’s second round at Evian Resort Golf Club.

Incredibly, Hillier’s hole-in-one was one of three for the day at the eighth hole, her even par round of 71 putting her one stroke clear of South African Lee-Anne Pace (69) and Spain’s Carmen Alonso (73) with one round left to play.

Joining Felicity Johnson and Aditi Ashok as eighth-hole aces on day two, Hillier hit 8-iron to hole out from 140 yards on a warm and windy afternoon at Evian Resort Golf Club.

“This was my fifth hole-in-one, so it was pretty special,” said Hillier.

“I saw that two players had already made hole in ones this morning so it was in my head and then it just happened!

“I’ve had two holes in one this year already, one in Melbourne: crazy! It’s been expensive.

“The most famous one I had was in Sitges in 2018, with Mike Dean as my caddie: that went viral.

“I also had an albatross when I was 16 in Perth. It was a driver, 7-wood and straight in! I didn’t see it, but it went in for a two!”

Hillier’s scorecard also featured four birdies and three bogeys.

“I had a great start today. I was four-under on the turn and then the wind picked up and it was very, very difficult,” she added, the winner this week to earn an exemption to The Amundi Evian Championship.

“I just stayed patient more than anything. I birdied my 17th and kept it going. I’m just keen for tomorrow.”

Kennedy 16-under, leads by two in Japan

Queenslander Brad Kennedy is 16-under through two rounds and the leader by two as he chases a fourth Japan Golf Tour title at the Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament at Toride Kokusai Golf Club in Ibaraki.

Defying golf’s convention that it is difficult to follow up a low round with something similar, Kennedy backed up a nine-under par round of 61 on day one with a seven-under 63 on Friday to edge two clear of Yuta Ikeda (67) and Tomoharu Otsuki (64).

Kennedy’s second round featured eight birdies – including four straight from the par-4 eighth – as he completed the first two rounds in just 124 strokes.

The 47-year-old’s lone bogey came at the 15th but he swiftly redeemed himself with birdie at the 17th hole to get back to seven-under on his round.

“It’s always tricky after a good start and try to back it up. I got off to a nice start with birdies on three and four,” said Kennedy.

“Being able to get early birdies after a good start allows you to relax a bit and play really nice through the middle of the day. I made four birdies in a row from eight through 11.

“I definitely didn’t expect to be 16-under after two days, but there’s a lot of good stuff there, and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

A six-time winner on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, the most recent of Kennedy’s three wins in Japan came at the 2018 Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup and he hopes to capitalise on the two-shot advantage to help secure a long-overdue victory.

But to get there, Kennedy knows he can’t afford to play it safe and must maintain an aggressive approach into the weekend.

“There’s a lot to play for at the weekend. The course can produce very low scores,” he noted.

“Fairways are a premium here, and you got to be spot on. The greens are holding nicely, so there’s plenty of pins to attack, and everyone will do the same on the weekend.

“You can’t really stay where you are. You have to keep going forward. It’s important to maintain self-control and, at the same time, be aggressive.”

Brendan Jones (63) is the next best of the Aussies in a tie for 18th at seven-under with Andrew Evans (66) and Anthony Quayle (68) a shot further back in a tie for 32nd.

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