Andrew Schonewille came to 13th Beach on Tuesday in disbelief at the quality of the Oates Victorian Open field.
Three days later, the 22-year-old amateur from Rosebud leads after one of the most frenetic scoring days in the tounament’s storied history.
Schonewille fired a blistering 64 on the Creek Course to add to his opening 69 to snare a one-shot lead.
Yet remarkably, for a day that yielded four men’s tournament course records, that wasn’t one of them.
That honour on the Creek Course went to Sydney’s Mitch Brown, who amazingly bogeyed the last hole en route to a 63 and a share of second place at 10 under.
On the Beach Course, no fewer than three players lit up with 64s to tie the existing tournament course record after setting out in the most benign conditions imaginable.
But those numbers mattered little to Schonewille, who arrived a distant glint in a galaxy of stars but who has shone the brightest through 36 rounds.
“I said on Tuesday when I came over with James Marchesani, `How good is this field? with Peter Lonard, Richard Green and Nathan Green – it’s incredible how they get these names,” the wide-eyed amateur said.
“But it’s fantastic to be where I am.
“I’ll be as nervous as hell on the first tee (tomorrow), but once I hit the first tee shot it will be game on.”
Schonewille admitted watching higher-profile Victorian teammates Ryan Ruffels and Lucas Herbert steal the headlines had spurred him on to work harder.
"With them setting the benchmark, it's made us work harder to get into the spotlight,'' he said.
"I've played in the state team with Ryan and Lucas and we're pretty good friends. So, it's competitive and everyone has the potential to be the best.''
Brown, the former NZ PGA champion, said he hadn’t putted as well in ages.
“It was just one of those days where you’re looking at it and it goes in,” he said.
“I hit a lot of good shots which I have been doing for a while but it was good that the momentum never stopped. It just kept going, normally it stops.
“When I had a birdie on a hard hole I seemed to have an easy hole the next so that kept the momentum going.
“I birdied a lot of the hard holes and then I would get to the next it was quite an easy hole which you would like to think you would birdie most of the time. It just kept rolling on.”
It had previously appeared as though benign morning conditions would give the early starters an edge when three Beach Course tournament record 64s were fired.
New South Welshman Aaron Townsend was first in with his eight-under-par round vaulting him to nine under overall.
His good friend and travelling companion Matt Millar soon matched the 64s that Richard Green and Michael Choi fired in 2013 to get to eight under.
But both were soon supplanted atop the board by Perth’s Jason Scrivener, whose bogey-free masterpiece gave him the outright lead at 10 under par.
However, far from a three-horse race, the birdie bonanza spread far and wide with Australian Masters champion Nick Cullen and Callan O’Reilly each firing 66s to leap up to eight under.
Newly minted European Tour player Scrivener said he was playing “without pressure” with a full tournament schedule ahead of him this year – and good form under his belt from tournaments in South Africa.
“I hit a lot of greens – it was pretty stress-free, really,” said Scrivener, who denied any extra pressure his new lofty status might provide.
“It’s definitely nice to come back and play in Australia … there’s no pressure on me at all.
“I only missed a couple of greens today and it felt fairly easy for once, which was nice.”
Millar, from Canberra, said he didn’t make many mistakes either, missing just one fairway and only then by a few metres.
“I made a few putts, but I probably left a few out there as well – maybe the 11th and 12th I left good chances short in the centre and a couple on the front nine, as well. I just had the ball under control and that’s a nice feeling.”
Millar, who played in the 2011 British Open, had a “bit of a shock” when he had to return to the PGA Tour’s Q-school in January for the first time in 12 years, but has been playing well since finishing fourth there to keep his playing rights.
“I played really well that week and in a way it mightn’t have been a bad thing … just change a few things about the way I went about playing … so I feel pretty comfortable at the moment.”
Townsend said he “got hot with the putter” early in his round and it barely stopped from there.
He had one three-putt bogey in his 64, yet still managed to use his blade 26 times for the round.
“I wasn’t hitting (my approaches) very close, but had a good feel for the speed of the greens and the read as well. It’s not often you have days like that when you can see them … it was a nice day in that respect,” said Townsend, whose playing partners Brett Coletta (-3) and Anthony Brown (–7) each fired 68 to be a combined 16 under for the round.
“The longest putt was about 5m, but I probably had about four or five of those. The guys got sick of them going in, I think,” he joked. “But I certainly wasn’t sick of it.”
Townsend, a dual winner on the PGA Tour of Australasia, said he was happy to be back on a course he enjoyed and hopefully recover his past winning ways.
“I don’t feel like I’m hitting the ball that great. I’m hitting it good off the tee, but it’s just a bit average into the green. I managed to scramble it around yesterday (for a 71) … so when these days come and you make a few putts, it makes you feel good again.”
Overnight leader Richard Green fired an even-par 66, but so hot was the pace he’ll start the weekend five back.
Remarkably, the cut was made at one under par, leaving Peter Lonard, Nathan Green, Mark Hensby, Peter O’Malley and Scott Laycock among a host of big names without a weekend tee time.