10 Feb 2022 | Vic Open |
#VicOpen women's: Green, Davidson, Kim lead
by Dane Heverin
Major champion Hannah Green stamped her authority, LPGA Tour-bound Karis Davidson showed her class and South Korean Gyu Rin Kim stunned the competition on day one of the Vic Open at 13th Beach.
The trio ended the day in a share of the lead at six-under par in cool and calm conditions - particularly in the morning - at Barwon Heads on the Bellarine Peninsula.
An early tee time on the Creek Course provided the perfect opportunity for Green to start her return to tournament golf with a bang and she took full advantage.
The 25-year-old went bogey free in her six-under par round of 67 and the strong crowd that flocked in to watch her, Australian WPGA champion (and Green’s best friend) Su Oh and amateur star Kelsey Bennett in action were over the moon to see Green in full flight.
Earlier in the week, she had flagged her concerns that she may be quite rusty after not having played a tournament since November, but she put on an exhibition of clean ball striking and sublime touch around the greens.
“I thought I was going to be rusty!” Green said with a laugh.
“I did mishit a couple of times out there, but I guess from memory I knew where to mishit and where not to hit it. I guess I banked on some experience in today’s round.”
Since Green withdrew from last month’s inaugural Australian WPGA Championship due to Western Australia’s border restrictions, she has been undertaking a lengthy pre-season back home in Perth where she has hardly taken a day off.
Watching from afar as her fellow Australians got back into the swing of competitive golf has spurred her on through range sessions, practice rounds and in the gym.
“Because the tour has been playing I’ve also been motivated to get back out there and do what I need to do while I’m still here in Australia,” Green, who will also play at TPS Murray River next week, said.
She has continued her focus on adding extra distance to her arsenal - something that was a welcome addition to her game in 2021 - and her latest work on that facet of her game was on show today.
“I feel like I’m hitting it a lot more crisp and that my mishits are still at middle contact. It’s nice to come back and see that I’m hitting a bit further than previous years,” she said.
“Again it’s pretty ideal conditions right now so we’ll see if the wind picks up and how my game shapes up then.”
The wind did gather strength in the afternoon - but it paled in comparison to the winds players have become accustomed to at 13th Beach over the years - and Karis Davidson made the most of the friendlier conditions on the notoriously more difficult Beach Course.
The sunshine and the spotlight shone on the 23-year-old’s grouping with fellow rising stars Stephanie Kyriacou and Grace Kim - who was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
However, the added attention had no impact on the unflappable Queenslander.
“I didn’t really notice (the crowds and the broadcast attention) to be honest,” Davidson said.
“It was a really good group with Steph and Grace. We were just chatting and I didn’t really realise what was going on around me.”
Her laser-like focus was a central theme of her round of 66 - the Beach Course is par-72, while the Creek Course is par-73 - and it translated into deadly accuracy on the greens.
“I’ve changed something really small in my routine so that’s helped me speed up the process and that may be why I holed a few more putts today,” she said.
“I’m just going to keep doing the same thing. I love playing around here. I feel like most of the players do.”
Gyu Rin Kim was another 25-year-old gaining plenty of attention on Thursday.
The South Korean gained a start this week after she contacted the WPGA Tour of Australasia asking to play and she immediately took a liking to Australian golf.
Kim, who plays on the secondary Korean Tour, carded eight birdies to match Davidson’s and Green’s efforts.
After her round on the Beach Course, Kim said she was extremely grateful for the opportunity to be playing this week against LPGA players and Australia’s rising stars.
One shot back from that trio is Ladies European Tour regular Whitney Hillier who also played the Beach, while junior sensation Jeneath Wong rounds out the top-five at three-under par.
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