Is this the best amateur in Australian golf right now?
When you’re in the kind of form Brett Coletta is in at the moment, the questions never stop coming. The 20-year-old, who shot an equal course record 10-under 62 in the first round of the NSW Open at Stonecutters Ridge today, came off course to a string of enquiries about his professional status and expectations.
Only two weeks ago, the Victorian amateur defeated a quality field to capture the Queensland Open, the first professional event of the Australian summer. That win came only weeks after he missed a birdie on the final hole of the Asia Pacific Amateur event in Korea which would have secured him a start at Augusta next April.
Asked today if that missed opportunity still hurts, he said: “Absolutely. It’s the ultimate goal to play in a major. It's definitely going to sting, but hopefully I get there one day in the near future".
He decided to enter this event with his amateur status well and truly intact, despite the obvious opportunity to earn some money. Whether he feels the pressure – internally or through the media’s questioning – it clearly is having little impact on his golf game. Today, it was special for the lack of errors, superb iron play and putting.
“It was all bit of a blur to start, all of a sudden I was seven under through nine. I played nearly almost flawless golf out there. I played exactly to my game plan,” Coletta said.
“It hit exactly to spots where I wanted to, and held my share of putts which usually equals a good score."
Coletta did most of the damage on the back nine, with five birdies and an eagle on 15 for a front nine (he started on the 10th) of just 29 strokes. He finished his final nine with a standard three birdies and six pars to hold the clubhouse lead against some of Australian golf’s best known names, including two players only a shot back at nine-under, Victorian Rory Bourke and tour veteran David Bransdon.
“(My) recent form hasn’t been fantastic, so it’s nice to shoot a low one,” Bransdon said. When asked to reveal the secret to his round, he laughed. “As always with me it’s about the putter. It was warm today, the same as yesterday in the Pro-Am. It kept going today.”
Elsewhere, some other big names had solid starts (Allenby -2), Michael Long (-4), but it was crucial to get a good start. Tour legend Craig Parry didn’t.
“It was just a very poor start,” said Parry, speaking about his frustration, which started with a three putt, double bogey on 10, a three-putt on 11, and another to make the turn with 41 strokes. But from there "I had an even par round on their back nine,” said Parry.
“It was frustrating. I hit a lot of good putts, but they seemed to lip out on the greens. That’s the way it goes sometimes,” he said.
Parry, who only saw the course for the first time on Monday, wished he had brought his Pro-Am game to the first round.
“I had probably eight birdies and eagle yesterday. I’ll have to do something very special tomorrow to make it (the cut). The cut will be a couple under at least. The wind’s not blowing, the flags aren’t tucked. You can make birdies out there.”
The afternoon groups are on the course, and Stonecutters is giving up birdies on a course with wide fairways and fast, but fair greens. There course record, held jointly by Rohan Blizard and Aaron Wilkin and now Coletta, will probably face its biggest threat.