Ben Ford, Chris Akers, Anthony Choat and Scott Laycock have a share of the lead in their first PGA Professionals Championship alongside 2016 winner Chris Duke after a tough opening round.
The five all shot even par 71 with the Hamilton Island course baring its teeth and keeping all 50 professionals no better than even par through the first 18 holes of the championship.
Chris Akers, Assistant Professional at Bankstown Golf Club was the first to record the score and was happy to have an even par round of 71 after hearing second-hand he’d definitely need a few extra sleeves of golf balls this week.
“The wind is causing a bit of havoc but if you hit some good shots you can leave yourself in the right spot and hole some putts, as long as they’re good ones obviously,” said Akers.
“I made a couple of mistakes out there but everyone in the field would say the same thing, if someone offered me 71 before I pegged it up I would’ve taken it.
“Most people I spoke to before this week emphasised the views, they didn’t mention how tough the course can be. They did tell me to pack some extra golf balls but I thankfully got through with the one today, that’ll give me a few up my sleeve for the next couple of days.”
Ford looked to be in control making the turn at Hamilton Island at 3-under and in the lead before battling through his final nine holes.
“It was a true test today, the front-9 was the easier of the two and we played that first with a little less wind and I was 3-under there but then we got to the back and it was just a matter of holding on,” said Ford.
“Some of the shots on the back nine you’ve really got to commit and if you don’t, you can make six, seven or eight on a hole. I had a double on the back so I’m pretty happy with square.
“If you can get round that back-9 one or two over I think you can be pretty confident of making some birdies on the front but that’s still a big test too.”
Fresh off playing four rounds at the Emirates Australian Open, Massey Park’s Anthony Choat took note of defending champion Matt Docking’s Q and A session following the pro-am when he mentioned every professional in the field is almost guaranteed to lose at least one ball around the tough layout.
“I think Matt’s speech last night when he said we’ll definitely have trouble really helped, I lost two balls on one hole and made a quad so I didn’t let that get to me which normally would,” said Choat.
Choat had a limited preparation after making a mad dash from The Lakes on Monday morning and arriving just in time for the pro-am. While he said the rushed preparation was less than ideal, it certainly could’ve been much worse.
“The two holes I messed up I felt like I didn’t prepare for properly, particularly the 10th. But really it’s turned out well for me, playing the Australian Open was fantastic and to still be able to get here and play the pro-am was great, if I wasn’t able to play before today I would’ve had a nightmare out there today.”
Scott Laycock, a winner both on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour has made no secret about chasing one of the two spots in the Australian PGA Championship on offer this week and is off to a solid start following his first round.
“I’m happy with that, it’s a challenging course I had a bunch of chances I just couldn’t convert, the greens got me, I need a little more assistance on reading them, I was hitting good putts but they weren’t dropping,” said Laycock.
“There’s more challenging holes on the back for sure but the front is no snack either. I lost a ball on the first tee, I had a bit of a brain fart and made a bogey but we’ll see how we go on the back tomorrow.”
New dad and 2016 PGA Professionals champion Chris Duke was happy to have escaped the opening round with and even par score after battling the gusty winds around the island.
“I’m extremely happy with even, the wind here today feels like it’s blowing a million miles an hour and it’s very very challenging. We survived the back-9 then did what we could on the front and couldn’t be happier with par,” said Duke.
“I think I shot 8-under when I won in 2016, we can still get there but I wouldn’t be surprised if even or maybe one or two over ends up winning this week.”
Marco Zirov holds outright sixth position at 1-over par with Sam Eaves, Jamie Hook and Josh Lane rounding out the top-10 at 2-over.
For the full leaderboard, visit pga.org.au.
Round two of the PGA Professionals Championship will tee off at 7:45am.
For round two tee times, visit pga.org.au.
The PGA Professionals Championship is played for a total prize pool of $55,000. The winner and leading male receives a spot in the 2018 Australian PGA Championship, the leading female receives a spot in the 2019 Vic Open.
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