01 Feb 2024 | Vic Open |
#VicOpen: Martin, Didone on top at 13th Beach
by Martin Blake
Andrew Martin is waking up in his own bed on the Bellarine Peninsula this week and it works a treat for him.
The Ocean Grove resident threatened a couple of records on his way to a first-round 65 on the Creek course at 13th Beach Golf Links to seize a share of the lead with fellow-Victorian Aiden Didone in the men’s section of the Vic Open today.
Martin was electrifying in the back half of his round, having started early on the 10th tee in nice conditions, and playing at his home course.
He made eight consecutive birdies from the 18th to the seventh holes, just one short of James Nitties’ record of nine in a row on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia, and his front nine of 29 shots was just a shot away from the tour record for nine holes.
Through seven holes of his opening round he was 1-over par and struggling, notably with his driver.
But he picked up eight shots from there with a white hot putter, getting up-and-down from the back trap at the par-4 ninth to post 7-under for the day.
Meanwhile 26-year-old Melburnian Didone rolled in four birdie putts in his last six holes in his 65 on the more difficult Beach course. His was the lowest round of the day on that course.
“I had a feeling I was going all right the last five or six holes,” he said. “It’s good when the putts roll in. Somedays they lip out.”
Martin and Didone are a shot ahead of three other Victorians, Caleb Bovalina, Todd Sinnott and DJ Loypur, at 6-under with a bunch of players in the pack at 5-under.
Kiwi Kazuma Kobori, winner of the past two tournaments on tour, opened with 4-under 68 on the Creek course to maintain his momentum and continue his push to become the first winner of three straight tournaments in Australia since Robert Allenby in 2005.
“I actually drove it very badly, but the putter saved me,” Martin said.
“I know the lines, I know where not to go on the front nine. I went everywhere I didn’t want to and I made it hard on myself.”
Martin is enjoying the week at home, allowing his wife Rachel dog walking duties in the morning so that he can practice, and picking up the afternoon shift.
He is a remarkable story; an Australian Amateur winner, he did not win an Australasian Tour event until 2021, and has since added another. On the surface, he is playing better than ever approaching his 40th birthday.
“I’m more mature. (I) know my game and play to my strengths. Some people get comfortable … when it’s bright and energetic. I didn’t like the spotlight even when I first turned (professional).
“I was happy to be in the background. But I’m more comfortable with cameras and stuff like that and a bit more mature in the way I play the game. Be a bit calmer when you don’t expect too much from yourself as well. It’s probably the best I’ve played.”
Martin will complete the season at home before heading off to play on the DP World Tour as a result of his top-three finish in last season’s Order of Merit. “I’ve been waiting a long time to get it, so I’ll be happy to take what I can get. And be ready when I get the call-up,” he said.
Of the chasing pack the one with the regrets was Adam Stojanovic, the New South Wales amateur who shot a 5-under 67 on the Creek course despite carding a triple-bogey seven on the short par-4 ninth hole, his last of the day.
At that point, he led the tournament by four shots.
But a flared tee shot into heavy mulga cost the 27-year-old dearly.
Originally from Sydney and a graduate of the Jack Newton Junior Golf programs, he is nowadays working in the shop at Yarra Bend links in Melbourne, and contemplating a return to serious golf after not playing for at least two years.
“I hit one bad shot all day and it was on the last,” he said. “I thought I may as well hit through and make another birdie. Tried to carry the bunkers and hit it bad.”
The only place to watch the Vic Open live is on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.
Join our newsletter
Get weekly updates on news, golf tips and access to partner promotions.