09 Dec 2021 | Professional golf |

Smith shines in Vic PGA first round

by Dane Heverin

Kevin Smith at the Vic PGA.

Unheralded Kevin Smith has taken the first round lead in the Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links after an opening 67 in windy conditions on the Mornington Peninsula.

Teaching professional Smith put his stellar opening round down to “dumb luck”, but he made six birdies and just the one bogey at the par-three third hole where he missed a putt of less than a metre.

The 38-year-old secured his place for this week by finishing in the top three of the PGA Professionals Championship of Victoria at Commonwealth last month. He leads by a shot from Brad Kivimets, Peter Lonard, Josh Clarke, Dimitrios Papadatos, James Grierson, Michael Sim and Andrew Martin.

“Just luck. I’ll put it down to luck,” Smith said after his five-under par round on the Legends course in the morning.

“I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was just luck. It was windy. But the course is awesome. You see it pretty early on and as long as you get the ball rolling on line it’s not going to miss. The greens are so good.

“So it was just dumb luck. It could be the absolute opposite tomorrow. I finished fourth to last or something here last year, so if I improve on that, I’m happy. I know that sounds ridiculous.”

Smith, who hails from Waverley Golf Club in Melbourne, turned professional in 2012 but lost his playing card after a year and turned to teaching. He completed a greenkeeping apprenticeship at his home club, and more recently worked as the manager at Warburton Golf Club outside Melbourne and he is now teaching and in the shop at Drummond Golf in Dandenong.

“I’m just happy to play,” he said. “Someone will go lower, someone will shoot nine under today, one of these guys who’s a decent player. You can tell. Someone will go crazy.”

No one did “go crazy” as the 50km/h morning winds proved the best time of the day to play.

Portsea club pro Kivimets, who also graduated to the field via last month’s event in Melbourne, and two-time Australian Open champion Lonard, took advantage of the early conditions to card 68s.

“On the sixth hole the wind really started to pick up, but I was somewhat comfortable with these conditions. It forces you to hit one shot and you can’t overthink it,” Kivimets said.

In the afternoon, the New South Wales trio of Clarke, Papadatos and Grierson, plus Queenslander Sim and Victorian Martin, slogged it out to put themselves in a good position in the tournament’s initial stages.

For Papadatos, things looked far more bleak when he was two-over through three holes and thinking “maybe 78. I was packing my bags”.

“I got off to a terrible start. I missed a really easy birdie on one and bogeyed two and three, so it wasn’t looking good. I just hung in there and hit a couple of good shots coming in.”

Meanwhile, 28-year-old Grierson relished the challenges the weather and the course presented today.

“I had a fair bit of control over my ball, which was nice,” he said.

“I tried to hold myself to my high standards, and if I signed for 73 or 68 or whatever it is, treat myself to how I can do it and go from there.”

“I love hard golf. It means you have to hit the fat of the green, pars are gold, and for some reason I love that type of golf.”

Defending champion Christopher Wood is two shots from the lead alongside Victorians Ben A Campbell and Edward Donoghue, New South Welshmen Andrew Dodt and Justin Warren, and Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb.

In the teams event - the Victorian Celebrity Amateur Challenge - the pairing of Andrew Dodt and Matthew Hogg sit atop of the leaderboard at ten-under par, while Mitch Davis and Luke Delany are one shot back in a share of second place with Brock Gillard and Charlotte Thomas.

Only 26 professional players in the field of 90 broke par for the day and they’ll tackle the Legends Course again tomorrow to try to secure their place for the weekend which will be staged on the Open Course.

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