The “best 3-wood of my life” has helped catapult local hope Stephanie Kyriacou to the outright lead midway through the opening round of The Players Series Sydney at Bonnie Doon Golf Club.
A birdie at the par-4 eighth followed by an eagle at the par-5 ninth saw Kyriacou climb to a first round of 8-under 64 to lead Victorians Matthew Griffin and Peter Wilson and Queensland’s Shae Wools-Cobb by a stroke in the morning wave, Blake Windred and Blake Collyer rounding out the top six a shot further back at 6-under par.
Having chosen to skip the opening event of The Players Series at Rosebud Country Club in January, the 20-year-old reigning Ladies European Tour rookie of the year carried the weight of expectation into the first round.
With her parents and members of St Michael’s and The Lakes golf clubs out in force to follow her progress, Kyriacou bogeyed her opening hole before quickly recovering with a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-3 11th.
Additional birdies came at 13, 15, 16, 18, 2, 4 and 8 before the eagle at the final hole propelled her to the top of the leaderboard by one.
“I hit a really, really good drive straight down the middle and then I had just over 200 to the pin,” Kyriacou explained.
“It was a little bit into the wind off the left and I just felt really good over the ball and hit the best 3-wood of my life to about four foot and then holed it.”
Winner of the Bonville Ladies Classic just over a year ago while still an amateur, Kyriacou is playing her first event as a professional in her home city this week and admitted that there were some nerves associated with a home-town gallery.
“I felt like there was a little bit of pressure at the start, being a local and all,” Kyriacou admitted.
“Even in the practice rounds I was hitting it horrible, I was putting horrible but today when I hit off it felt good to be back in tournament mode.
“Something in my head just switched.
“It’s nice to have an event at home because this is the first one my family can come and watch me.
“My Mum and Dad came out today and a few of the members from The Lakes and St Mick’s so it was nice to see a few familiar faces.
“My sister Eleena better come out. She hasn’t seen me play golf in years.”
Frustrated by his putting performance in the four events played in Victoria to start the year, Griffin was able to carry forward the adjustments he and coach Denis McDade made prior to a final round of 6-under 66 at the Moonah Links PGA Classic during his 7-under 65 on day one.
“I was just taking the putter away and moving my hands a little bit,” Griffin said of the cause of his putting woes.
“As soon as I do that I have to correct it going back and I really struggle to get my putts on line.
“I just had to play so well tee to green to have a decent score over those weeks and even starting today, once I rolled in a couple early you relax a bit with the putter and holed a few through the middle stages.
“The first five holes, one to five, are really difficult and I was able to birdie the fourth and fifth and holed a nice 15-footer across the slope on five which really got my round going because you’ve got a few birdie chances coming in.
“That’s the difference in shooting 3 or 4-under and getting to 7, playing those holes well.”
Having joined the professional ranks in October 2019 it has been 18 months of frustration for Blake Collyer.
Invited to return to the organic health food store where he worked while still an amateur, Collyer spent much of 2020 grinding out a regular job five days a week and has slowly managed to chip away at the competitive rust the past few weeks.
With bogeys at one and five he was 1-over through his first six holes and said that the increase in the strength of the wind provided the catalyst to play his remaining 12 holes in 7-under par.
“You started to feel gusts maybe seven or eight holes in but my slow start when it was calm caught me off guard,” Collyer admitted.
“When it got windy I was able to play with the wind and hit some shots into some flags which was nice.
“I didn’t really know what score I was throughout the round, it just kept building, making birdies every few holes.
“I hit some nice shots into the par 5s and the shorter par 4s which gave me some good chances to make birdies.”
It was a strong start for newly-turned professional Jack Thompson as he posted a 5-under 67 to be tied for seventh, amateur Grace Kim underlined her tremendous potential with a 4-under 68 while Elvis Smylie matched Kyriacou’s eagle at the par-5 ninth to post 3-under in his first outing as a professional.