02 Mar 2021 | Professional golf |

Kulacz fires when it matters most

by Golf NSW

Rick Kulacz rounds into form for his shot at a second NSW Open crown. Picture: DAVID TEASE
Rick Kulacz rounds into form for his shot at a second NSW Open crown. Picture: DAVID TEASE

West Australian Rick Kulacz held his nerve to claim the South Coast Open at Moruya Golf Club on Monday.

On an afternoon when it seemed the winner could come from anywhere, it was Kulacz who fared best, coming home with a withering eagle-birdie-par finish for a five-under 66 and a two-round total of eight under to claim a two-shot victory.

However, for much of the day, it seemed the tournament was overnight leader Martin Dive's for the taking. Starting the day with a two-shot lead, the Ryde Parramatta bomber looked to be comfortably cruising to victory.

Although the challengers were queueing up, birdies on the 1st and 8th holes enabled Dive to stretch his lead to three by the turn.

But trouble was lurking. A bogey on the 12th preceded disaster on the 15th as Dive rinsed his tee shot on the dog-leg par four, then flew the green with his third and then speared the resulting chip almost off the front of the green. Moruya had well and truly bitten back.

With a southerly buster smashing the course late, a final-hole birdie was all he could do to remain in the top three.

Choat, Dive's playing partner in the final group, looked like the man most likely for much of the day, but dropped from contention with a back nine to forget.

Daniel Gale backed up his opening 68 with a second three-under effort to finish second, while Aaron Wilkin, Michael Wright, Deyen Lawson, Daniel Fox, Matthew Millar and Dive finished tied for third at five under.

It was Kulacz, however, who was the man of the moment and he was clearly relieved to take the win.

"It was good in the end. I finished well and everyone seemed to go backwards late," he said.

Kulacz admitted playing several groups in front of the leaders helped his focus enormously and said maintaining it through the final few holes had paid off handsomely.

"To be honest, and it's a bit of a cliche, I was just trying to hit good shots on every hole.

"I didn't do it all day, but I did it late. I rolled in a couple, and that took the heat off me.

"I was kind of stressing about 16 down the hill, but I drove it really well and hit a 2-iron to the middle of the green and holed it for eagle."

Energised by his finish, Kulacz admitted he was confident of victory walking off the final green at eight under.

Compared to the previous three regional Open events in which the two-round scores had been in the double digits, Kulacz said the testing Moruya layout had played far more challenging than many of the players had expected.

"There was a little bit more breeze, the pins were tucked and the greens definitely were a bit firmer," he said.

"It's harder to get it close here and it's hard to make birdies; very easy to make mistakes.

"It's my type of golf. I like it like this more, unlike courses where you have to try and birdie every hole."

Kulacz, already a NSW Open champion, will be back at Concord this month, courtesy of his place last week at Queanbeyan.

"It was a long time ago," he said when asked about his Open win.

"But I still remember. It was a good few weeks for me, good memories, hopefully I'll play well this year as well."

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