Two years ago Callan O’Reilly questioned his desire to be a tour pro. He had just failed to earn a playing card at the final stage of Asian Tour qualifying school in Thailand by two strokes. He was homesick and his girlfriend was celebrating her birthday with their friends back home in Newcastle.
On Friday morning in Queenstown, O’Reilly had the type of round ever professional desires. He shot a career-best 11-under 61 at The Hills in the second round of the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open.
He went out in three-under 33 and came home in eight-under 28. He birdied every hole except the par-4 15th on The Hills’ back nine.
The new course record elevated O’Reilly into a share of the clubhouse lead with Queenslander Daniel Nisbet on 14-under par.
O’Reilly had been on the brink of a super-low score given his form over the past month. The 27-year-old was a quarter-finalist at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, T-5 at the Queensland PGA and T-13 at last week’s NZ PGA.
With $63,462 in earnings so far this year, he admitted to “not feeling any financial pressure”. It gave him the freedom to attack The Hills on another calm day when red numbers were in abundance. The world No.558 also said switching coaches to Gary Barter at The Australian Golf Club had contributed to his positive mindset.
Also in a good headspace was first-round co-leader Nisbet, who followed up his opening 63 with a five-under 66 at Millbrook, the host venue for the pro-am event. Backing up from a hot round is never easy, but Nisbet controlled his emotions, saying: “I tried not to put too much expectation on myself.”