Home town hope Stacey Keating has surged into contention to win the Victorian Women’s Open at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links, Barwon Heads, at the half-way mark of the tournament.
Keating, who comes from Cressy in Victoria’s Western District, begins the third round one shot behind the leader Sarah Jane Smith after firing the equal best round of the day on the Creek Course.
A six-under par 68 sees Keating sitting at nine-under after 36 holes with the ladies now switching over the testing Beach Course layout for the final two rounds of the tournament.
Keating had a strong gallery of family and friends following her during the afternoon round and she’s hoping she can deliver for them over the weekend.
“I didn’t expect so many people to be out here (but) it’s nice,” Keating said.
“I don’t get that opportunity to play in front of my family and friends very often and it’s nice to play well as well.
“I don’t like to get too far ahead of myself but my aim is to be there somewhere on the weekend and I think I’ve done that at this point.
“To be contending is always a lot more fun.”
Keating’s card was only blemished by a bogey on the par three 12th.
“I don’t think it got as windy as it did yesterday afternoon,” Keating said.
“There was some tough holes coming in and I was very pleased with how I finished.”
After an indifferent day, Sarah Jane Smith birdied the last hole to finish with a one-under par 73 to be alone at the top of the leaderboard on 10 under.
“Early on I missed a couple of six footers for birdies and a couple of simple par saves, but at the end of the round I didn’t do a lot wrong,” she said.
Smith is yet to play the Beach Course whereas Keating has enjoyed numerous rounds around the tight layout.
“I don’t think the scoring is going to be as good on that side (Beach course) and if the wind gets up then the course is a lot tougher,” Keating said.
“If it blows out here it can be very hard to get at any pins and then it just comes down to who holes the putts.”
Smith’s caddy, husband Duane, has studied the course and walked it during the week, so she’s happy to trust his judgement when Saturday’s third round gets underway.
“I would have been quite happy to stay out there (Creek course) for all four days, but it will be nice to see what the guys have been doing,” Smith said.
Swede Sophie Gustafson, West Australian pair Kristie Smith and Jessica Speechley and Victorian amateur Grace Lennon are all tied at eight under par.
Lennon held the outright lead late in the day until she stumbled with a double bogey and bogey in her final few holes.
But Lennon is hoping to be inspired by the recent feats of fellow amateurs Su-Hyun Oh and Lydia Ko in ALPG events and give the women professionals a good run for their money over the weekend.
“The goal is to win the tournament but, for me, it’s more of a learning experience,” Lennon said.
“I’d definitely like to finish the tournament with a couple of under par rounds and see where that puts me.
“But I’ll play one shot at a time and see what happens.”
Two solid rounds of four under par 70 has put Speechley in contention for her best finish of the summer.
The 23-year-old said she was looking forward to tackling the Beach course over the weekend.
“I practiced on it once this week and it’s a totally different course to what we’ve played the first two days,” Speechley said.
“It’s just like a links-style course and if the wind picks up again it will be tough.”
Speechley, who will this year play on the Ladies Japanese Tour, said she’s been pleased with how her game stood up over the first two days.
“It’s quite a short course and my three-wood off the tee has been pretty consistent,” Speechley said.
“I’m putting it in the places that I want to put it and also my putting has been pretty good.”
Tournament drawcard Laura Davies also stumbled late in the day after at one stage getting it to 11-under.
A triple bogey eight on the par five 17th saw Davies drop down the leaderboard into a tie for 10th at six under par.
For all the up-to-date news regarding the 2013 Vic Open, check Golf Victoria’s website, www.golfvic.org.au and follow @VicOpenGolf on Twitter.
By: Bradley Green (Vic Open Freelancer)