While Katherine Kirk ensured the Aussie flag fluttered proudly at Royal Adelaide, her compatriots are among those nipping at her heels.
On a day of low scoring as the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open began, Hannah Green was among those in contention behind Kirk’s imperious 8-under-par 65.
Perth’s Green, in her first full year as a professional, kickstarted her impressive 69 with a chip-in from the sand at the front left of the tough 12th green after beginning on the 10th.
“It was nice to get my first birdie early and just settle down a bit,” Green said.
“I just want to improve on last year (T20 as an amateur) and see where I can go from there, so that’s a good start.”
Green, who has a secondary Symetra Tour card, knows a successful start in her national championship has the potential to enhance her LPGA Tour status.
But she’s not letting her mind drift too far in that direction.
“I don’t really know what I’d need to do (to get any more starts), so all I can do is just play well and finish as high as I can,” she said.
“It’s a really good field this week, but that just means it’s a great chance to keep learning about what it will take.”
Queenslander Sarah-Jane Smith briefly shared the early lead with birdies on her first three holes, from 10-12.
Remarkably, despite another birdie on the 15th, she turned even par after a rollercoaster ride including two bogeys and a double.
But she showed great composure and made three more inward birdies to close with an entertaining 70.
Among the other Aussies to have completed their opening rounds, Ellen Davies-Graham fired a 74 to match Jess Speechley.
But the big surprise was to see five-time champion Karrie Webb having left herself in pitched battle to make the cut tomorrow after a flat 76 that could easily have been worse bar a couple of late birdies.
at least made lunch taste better, but it wasn’t real good out there today.
“I couldn’t tell you what went right, so it’s probably easier to narrow that down,” Webb said when asked what specifically had gone wrong.
“I just didn’t swing it very well early on and the further I went along the worse it got.
“And then I missed a few shorts putts, when I’d been feeling pretty good with the putter, so that was a bit of a shock to the system.”
Conversely, far nearer the beginning of her career, Melbourne’s Alizza Hetherington [below] impressed with an even-par 73 in her first round at the national championship.
“I’m pretty excited, happy I could play well and get comfortable out there,” the 16-year-old amateur beamed.
“I was pretty nervous on the first hole, but I somehow managed a par and then it was like a normal round of golf — except there were a lot of people around,” she said with a broad grin.
“I had a double on the 10th that shook me up a bit, but I birdied the next hole and it got me back up a bit.
“I’ve got the taste for it, loved it. I’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Emma de Groot fired a 76, one better than Katelyn Must.