Local Papua New Guinea amateur Brian Taikiri has had the round of his career to share the lead following the first round of the SP PNG Open at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club.
Taikiri’s bogey free round of 9-under 63, an equal course record, was matched by New South Welshman Dale Brandt-Richards who also handed in a blemish free card.
A member of Royal Port Moresby Golf Club, Taikiri surprised even himself with his lowest score to date.
“I didn’t expect this to be honest,” Taikiri said with a smile.
“I just went out and played my own game, this being my home course I knew what the course record was but I don’t normally shoot this in a normal Saturday competition.
“That’s the best score I’ve ever had on any course, but scoring that on my home course I’m privileged and honoured to have done that.”
Taikiri’s knowledge of his home track shone through on the back-9 charging home with five birdies, four consecutively from the 14th to the 18th holes.
“I finished with those four birdies in a row so I’m very happy with that, four birdies on the front-9 and 5-under on the back.”
The local amateur’s next goal is to make the cut in his national Open, something he hasn’t been able to achieve before.
“I haven’t made the cut in the PNG Open yet but shooting this score is certainly going to help me early,” added Taikiri.
“It will be much of the same for me tomorrow; I’ll just come out, relax and try to have fun.”
Brandt-Richards who has played every SP PNG Open since it became part of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia schedule, also had some local knowledge at his disposal.
“This is my third trip over here so I know what to expect and today I had my caddie Morris who’s been on the bag every year in PNG,” said Brandt-Richards.
“So he came in and read a couple putts for me just to double check my reads. He’s on a 3 handicap so I trust his judgment and a few went in.
“I think I missed one green out there today and I was hitting it pretty solid all day off the tee,” added Brandt-Richards.
“I hit it close a lot, I still missed a few putts but holed a couple and was able to get to 9-under.”
After a strong showing today and in yesterday’s pro-am, Brandt-Richards said he’s looking forward to keeping his momentum rolling in to round two.
“It’s always hard to back up a low round the next day, I don’t know what it is, maybe your mindset or something like that.
“I had a good round yesterday in the pro-am and another good round today so I’ve just got to keep it rolling.”
Now playing in his third SP PNG Open, Brandt-Richards was quick to praise the course’s condition and the staff who have presented the best layout to date.
“It’s definitely the best it’s ever been in the last three years, the putts are rolling a lot smoother, the fairways are a little more lush,” added Brandt-Richards.
“With the improvements in the greens it’s been better to score for us so they’ve done a great job.”
Hot on the leading pair’s heels is New South Welshman Alex Edge who finished with 8-under 64 and a clean card in the opening round.
“I got off to a pretty patchy start, I was in the trees a little bit but a made a couple of good up and downs,” said Edge.
“I ended up chipping in for par on my second hole and then I chipped in for birdie on the next hole so that was pretty rare to have two of those in a row. I knew I was going to be in for a good day when that sort of stuff happens at the beginning.
“I’ve been driving it well the last couple of days and if I keep doing that I can give myself a lot of opportunities on this course.”
Scott Arnold, making his tournament debut in the SP PNG Open holds outright fourth position after a posting a round of 6-under 66 in the morning field on day one.
“I started off a bit scratchy, I was a couple over after the first six holes but had eight birdies over my last 12 holes,” said Arnold.
“I started to find a bit of form,hole a few putts and got a bit of momentum; then everything fell in to place.”
Just three shots off the lead, Arnold said he’ll be taking an aggressive approach in to the second round.
“You’ve got to be aggressive out here, it’s pretty short and it’s pretty warm so the ball is going a bit further, if you can hole the putts you’ll be okay,” added Arnold.
“I’m pretty happy with how I finished up today and hopefully we can keep moving forward.”
Lachlan McDonald, Aaron Pike, Brody Martin, Taylor Macdonald, Tim Stewart, Antonio Murdaca, and Hayden Webb are in a tie for fifth after rounds of 4-under 68.
Englishman Jon Kennedy provided one of the highlights of the day, nailing an ace on the par-3 18th to put a smile on his face after a tough opening round.
“It was a good way to finish after stumbling through for most of my round. It was a 7-iron, we thought we’d lost it in the shadows and it wasn’t until we got to the green we realised,” said Kennedy.
“That was my second hole-in-one; the first one was actually a shank so it’s nice to actually have a true hole-in-one.”
The SP PNG Golf Open will be played from 26-29 April at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea with the field vying for a prize purse of AU$145,000.
The winner will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points and become fully exempt on to the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of this season plus a further season.
The second round of the SP PNG Open will tee off at 7:00am with Dale Brandt-Richards beginning at 11:20am and Brian Taikiri off at 11:45am.
For round two tee times, visit pga.org.au.
For round one scores visit pga.org.au.
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