Kiwi dynamo Momoka and reigning NSW Open champion Bryden Macpherson have a share of the lead following the opening round of the TPS Hunter Valley at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort on Friday.
Heavy downpours earlier in the week forced the tournament to be reduced to 54 holes players were pleasantly surprised by the playability of the golf course when they arrived on Friday morning
Local rules were implemented, the worst-affected areas declared GUR and the par-4 12th has been reduced to a 136-meters par 3 for the first two rounds but the morning groups were greeted by bright sunshine and made the most of the pristine greens.
With the course playing to a par of 69, Kobori and Macpherson set the mark with scores of five-under 64, Kobori leaning on her exceptional putting to pick up birdies at two of her first three holes with just one bogey over the course of her round. Gol
The nearest challenger from the afternoon groups came late when Queenslander Aaron Wilkin posted four-under 65 to snare outright third, Brad Kennedy, Cassie Porter, star amateur Harrison Crowe, Ben Campbell and Josh Armstrong all a shot further back at three-under 66.
Kobori is no stranger to mixing it with the men having won the 36-hole Whitford Park Pro Am on New Zealand’s Charles Tour last January and has consistently placed herself toward the top of the leaderboard throughout the Webex Players Series.
She was tied for ninth at TPS Victoria, tied for fourth behind Hannah Green at TPS Murray River and shot 67-66 in the final two rounds at TPS Sydney to finish tied for 11th, confidence building with each outing.
“It was amazing to see Hannah win at Cobram a few weeks ago,” Kobori said of Green’s breakthrough.
“It’s so good to see quite a few of us girls doing quite well in the TPS events the past couple of months. It’s definitely good motivation for all of us.”
Macpherson had little opportunity to play the golf course ahead of his NSW Open victory at Concord Golf Club 12 months ago and used a similar preparation to make a strong start at Cypress Lakes.
The 31-year-old peeled off four birdies on the trot in a back nine of 30 and adjusted quickly to the conditions the field faced on day one.
“It’s actually really similar to NSW Open last year,” Macpherson said.
“I guess I maybe play a bit better when I don’t care or don’t have any expectations.
“The only thing I didn’t really know getting onto the golf course was how the greens were going to react with shots coming in.
“But I knew where to go, I knew my lines off tees and things like that, it was just, ‘How is the ball going to react when it hits the ground?’
“I worked off a worst-case scenario that it was going to be super-spinny, which it wasn’t to be honest. It was a little bit spinny but not overly.
“You’ve got to give kudos to the ground staff, they’ve done a great job.”
Macpherson began his back-nine charge with a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fourth, struck a pure iron in close at the 163-metre par-3 fifth and played approach shots to tap-in range at the par-5 sixth and short par-4 seventh.
After walking the course on Thursday Wilkin woke up expecting a tough afternoon yet when he saw the morning scores adjusted his thinking.
Three straight birdies from the 15th hole gave Wilkin mid-round momentum, a chip-in birdie at the 214-metre par-3 third providing an unexpected boost up the leaderboard.
“That was probably stealing one,” Wilkin admitted.
“Walking the course yesterday, I thought if I shot even par I was going to be pretty happy but the course held up way better than I expected.
“I had to change that expectation when I saw the scores in the morning. I saw five-under and figured it wasn’t playing as hard as I thought.”
Winner of the Jack Newton Junior International Classic by 12 strokes three years ago, Queensland’s Cassie Porter is one of five players tied for fourth at three-under, amateur Harrison Crowe another to take advantage of his history at Cypress Lakes with a round of 66.
“I said to myself last night, ‘If I shoot two-over I’ll be happy.’ Considering the course conditions, they’ve done so well to bring it back from where it was. I’m stoked with the result,” Porter said.
“It definitely does bring back a few good memories. My shot into the ninth, I had exactly the same distance as I did when I won. That was pretty cool. Didn’t hit it as close but we move on from that.”
James Grierson made a claim for shot of the day, holing a pitching wedge from 130 metres for eagle at the par-4 second, posting 68 to be in a share of 14th at one-under.
TPS Hunter Valley is an event on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and WPGA Tour schedule with both men and women competing in the same field for the same prize purse and one trophy. Total prize money is $200k.
The Webex Player Series also looks to the future of amateur golf by including juniors to the weekend play to rub shoulders with the best of the best.
The Players Series’ primary goal is to provide quality playing opportunities and genuine pathways for Australia’s next generation of male and female professionals that complement the existing events on both tours.