A rookie Kiwi professional and a veteran Australian campaigner lead the men’s event at 8-under 64 while return visitor Beth Allen, a Scotland based American, holds a one-shot lead in the women’s event.
Another rookie Kiwi, Nick Voke, is alongside another veteran Australian Peter Wilson at 7-under while Cheyenne Woods holds down outright second in the women’s event at 5-under.
Minjee Lee and little-known Wollongong native Tanya Ravnjak share top Australian honours at 3-under and T4.
Much of the good scoring in the opening 18 holes came at the 13th Beach complex’s Creek Course in the morning wave with co-leaders David Bransdon and James Anstiss both among that number as were Allen and Woods on the women’s side of the draw.
It was déjà vu for Victorian Bransdon who, for the second consecutive year, opened with a 64.
“Maybe I should ask the organisers if we can play three rounds around here (the Creek course) and just the one on the Beach instead,” the 44-year-old joked.
“I just seem to hole putts over there. I get over to the Beach and don’t hole as many.”
The flatstick was key to his score according to the two time PGA Tour of Australasia winner who said he had been working hard with Gold Coast based short game coach Matt Ballard.
“I did some good work on my putting at the end of last year with Matt Ballard and basically worked on the same sort of stuff,” he said. “The ball is rolling well for me.
“My big thing is stable knees and hips, he (Ballard) is constantly sending me videos and pictures of Jason Day and how well he does that, with constantly stable legs.
“The putter for me is what it comes down to. If you have 36 putts you’re never going to shoot 8-under.”
At the other end of his career but sharing the limelight in Barwon Heads is James Anstiss, a 22-year-old New Zealander who turned professional at the end of last year and is playing for a cheque for just the second time.
Seemingly unfazed by his position on the leaderboard so early in his career his response when asked his thoughts on his start were blunt.
“It’s always nice shooting 64 and being co leader rather than shooting 80 and not being in it,” he said with a laugh.
While 67 players in the men’s field broke par on day one just 26 achieved the feat in the women’s tournament with Allen’s 67 a clear standout.
Prolific Tour winner-turned-caddie Sophie Gustafson is caddying this week for Beth Allen. (Photo: Paul Shire).
The 36-year-old was particularly pleased to be bogey free for the day having had no practise round after flying to Australia from the LPGA event in the Bahamas.
“I only arrived yesterday morning so I didn’t have tons of expectations which is usually good when you’re playing golf,” she said after her round. “I kind of just woke up and said let’s see what happens.
“I made six birdies and no bogeys and I scored on the par-5’s pretty well. I holed quite a few putts so that was good because last year that’s what I was kind of struggling with.
“It was really good to get on the greens and get some confidence to set the tone for the rest of the year.”
Woods, too, was pleased with her effort after also not seeing the course before teeing up this morning.
“I’m really happy with how I played today, first time seeing the course,” she said.
“I hit the ball well which helped a lot being my first time out here.
“My caddie was great. He came out yesterday and walked both courses and did all his homework so we felt good going into today.”
Woods’ clubs didn’t arrive in Barwon Heads until late yesterday but she said the delay may have been a blessing in disguise.
“We got into Australia from the States in the morning but my clubs arrived here around 4pm yesterday,” she said.
“So I just took a nap and relaxed yesterday. It worked for me to rest because I played last week so I had a lot of golf under my belt last week.”
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