11 Feb 2022 | Vic Open |
#VicOpen women's: Hillier takes charge
by Dane Heverin
A stunning five-under par second round 68 from Whitney Hillier has set-up a Saturday showdown with fellow West Australian Hannah Green at 13th Beach.
Hillier, who has earned her card on the Ladies European Tour for nine consecutive years, lit up the Creek Course to make it back-to-back five-under par rounds and sit two strokes clear of overnight leader Green.
The pair were delighted to be playing together again after spending an abundance of time on course together over the years from amateur tournaments to a practice round at last year’s AIG Women’s Open.
They have played together at this tournament previously with Green recalling an early Saturday round in one of her first Vic Opens where they both shot roughly six-under and shot up the leaderboard.
This time there is sure to be much bigger galleries and air time however, and Hillier is itching to get out on the Beach Course.
“I love it. It’s what I’m here for. I can’t wait for the weekend,” she said.
“Whatever happens, happens but I’m just going to have some fun.”
The chance to play in front of Australian fans again, let alone contend for a title, has been a long time coming for Hillier.
Prior to touching down in Melbourne for TPS Victoria last week, she had not been on Australian shores since the pandemic began and she has still not returned to her home state due to border restrictions.
“It’s just nice to be home. It’s been two years since I’ve actually been back so I’m just so happy to be quite honest,” she said.
“Obviously to be playing golf is a bonus. It’s nice to play in the heat. I’m so used to wearing jumpers and trousers. It’s just nice to be in the sun to be quite honest with you.”
Hillier and her fiancé Ben Brewer - who is currently caddying for Stephanie Kyriacou - live in Lincoln in England’s East Midlands and last year the 31-year-old enjoyed her best year on Tour as she finished 45th on the LET Order of Merit.
She credits the improvement in the mental side of her game for that performance and today’s.
“I stayed patient all day yesterday and obviously this morning it was blowing gale. It’s the same for everyone so I just placed it in all the right positions really,” she said.
“Only one got me - on one of the sucker pins on 16 - but other than that I played really well.
“It’s amazing because the LPGA a couple of years ago (the 2019 and 2020 Vic Open were LPGA sanctioned) was playing so long and especially with the wind it’s even harder.
“So I had that mentality of ‘it’s a little bit shorter so take the advantage of what we’ve got’. We’ve got so many more wedges in so I guess I did take advantage.”
She will need to continue to take full advantage to hold off Green.
The major champion remains bogey free for the tournament following a two-under second round on the Beach Course.
“I usually get messages from my coaches saying that my scorecards are a bit too colourful for the wrong reasons,” Green said with a laugh.
“It’s really nice to not have a bogey on the scorecard and hopefully I can keep that up on the weekend. But make a few more putts.”
Despite not dropping a shot, Green’s day could have produced more as she bookended her round with a pair of near-misses among other mishaps in between.
On the first, a bunker shot incredibly did a lap of the cup but refused to drop, while she closed out her round in disappointing fashion as she three putted at the last after her eagle putt barely slid by the hole.
There was also a duffed chip at the short par-4 15th and a few miscalculations along the way.
“It was kind of nice to know where to hit it (on the Beach Course) because I feel like a couple of times across the back nine I actually hit the wrong club off the tee which made it hard for me to have a decent approach shot,” Green said.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend and hopefully the weather stays like this because it’s perfect.”
Australian WPGA champion Su Oh and rookie professional Cassie Porter share third at four-under par, while overnight co-leader Karis Davidson dropped three shots today to be one shot back from them in fourth.
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