Date: May 07, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Blues bank on the little things

In what shapes as a particularly even women's Interstate Series, the smallest of details could determine the next home of the Gladys Hay Memorial Cup.

And with the attention to minutiae of a team far older than its tender years would suggest, the New South Wales women have gone the extra mile in their preparation – in some cases, quite literally.

Darcy Habgood is one of three new faces into a Blues squad that came up just short in a tense final against Victoria last year in Perth.

Having moved from Queensland to Nambucca Heads on the NSW mid-north coast, 18-year-old Habgood has been travelling further south regularly to get to know her new teammates.

And while it must read ludicrously to have 18-year-old Doey Choi pitched as a pseudo-matriarch of the team, she has been out to dinner with the family of the team's "baby" in 13-year-old prospect Sophie Yip, "just to make them all welcome into our little family".

"She reminds me of me when I was that age," Choi said of Yip.

"It can be pretty daunting to play a senior team event when you're really young and we just want her to feel comfortable with us all."

Last year, the NSW crew was so young that it fielded, for the first time in the events' history, the same team in the junior and senior Interstate Series.

Choi, Steph Kyriacou (17) and captain Amy Chu (18) return, with the other newcomer Kelsey Bennett (18) who impressed many with a breakout performance at the Australian Amateur Championship in Perth in January when she was low Australian qualifier into the match play and eventually reached the Round of 16.

So despite having another incredibly young average age, there is a hint of greater experience that Choi is hopeful will count in crunch moments.

"We've all been working hard, but not just golf, on bonding things as well.

"Aside from the (scheduled team) practice sessions, we played at Elanora together the other day and then at Terrey Hills' Par 3.

"It's not all about golf, it's more about us a whole team sharing time and getting to know each other.

"We've really bonded and are just like a little family – it's good fun getting to know everyone."

Choi said that team spirit would manifest in several ways both on course at Glenelg Golf Club this week, as well as off it between contests.

"It's made us more aware of watching how everyone plays and understanding what they're going through."

The upshot of that, Choi suggested, could be that while she might be slated to play at No.1 in the NSW order, she would just as readily play at the other end if it was best for team balance.

"We're really comfortable with each other now and if it suits us to switch things up, then that's what we'll do," Choi said.

"We are lucky to have a very even team and anyone can play anywhere … it won't matter if it's No.1 or No.6, they're all just a match for one point."

Just as will Queensland and Victoria, the Blues go into the week minus their top player, Grace Kim, who'll be playing for Australia in the Queen Sirikit Cup in Thailand alongside Becky Kay and Steph Bunque.

The scheduling clash makes it far harder to predict which way the states will order their squads for the critical contests.

As ever, Queensland looks competitive and will have a versatile outfit of its own, with the improving Dee Russell likely to be pivotal.

Victoria will defend its title with only two of the same players successful in Perth last year, but can never be ruled out, especially with Alizza Hetherington back in the Big V.

But while Tasmania and South Australia are more than capable of pushing deep into the week, it's a rich West Australian combination which might be a contender in many eyes.

With newly crowned Australian Junior champ Maddison Hinson-Tolchard alongside four of her mates who were the dominant team in WA's win in the recent girls' Interstate Series – Kirsten Rudgeley, Abbie Teasdale former Australian representative Kathryn Norris and newcomer Yeah-Jin Lee – the team already has momentum and that winning expectation.

Throw in Wanneroo's Georgia Shears, the "veteran" of the squad at age 20, and the sky's again the limit for the WA women.

The women’s tournament begins on Tuesday with each state playing five round-robin contests by Thursday lunchtime.

The round robin contests pit five women from each state, while the final between the top two teams will feature all six players with the top-ranked team needing only three points to secure the title.