Date: February 05, 2016
Author: Bradley Green

Deja vu for local pro

Ben Eccles has been here before.

Twelve months ago the young Victorian sat near the top of the Oates Vic Open leaderboard at 13th Beach at the half-way mark of the tournament.

He never faulted over the weekend and ultimately finished tied for third, two shots behind eventual winner Richard Green.

Eccles also finished tied as the leading amateur with Ryan Ruffels. Both have since gone on to turn professional.

While Ruffels is now over in America plying his trade, Eccles is back at Barwon Heads looking to claim his first victory as a pro on a course he’s very familiar with.

After shooting an opening round of 70, Eccles backed up with a three-under par 69 to sit well-placed on the 2016 Oates Victorian Open leaderboard at five-under par heading into the weekend.

It was a round of “what have been” for the recently turned 21-year-old, who’s looking to add to his NSW Open victory late last year.

He started solidly with three birdies in his opening six holes and shaved the cup on several more.

At one stage Eccles got to six-under for the tournament before back-to-back bogies on the par four 16th and par three 17th on the Beach course saw him drop back.

But a tap-in birdie on the par five 18th at least left him walk off the course feeling satisfied with his round.

“I definitely had a lot of chances out there. I limped in at the end but pretty happy with my round in the finish,” Eccles mused afterwards.

“Finishing with a birdie on the last makes up for those two dropped shots.

“I made a poor decision off (the tee on) 16 and then hit a bad putt on 17. I wasn’t too worried but it was pretty frustrating.

“The forecast is for less wind as well (over the weekend) so I think there’ll be some good numbers out there tomorrow and I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

Eccles is expecting a swell of home-town support as he tees off in the third round. Originally from England, Eccles moved to Torquay years ago with his family and has grown up playing on the famous courses around the Bellarine Peninsula and Geelong region.

He’s not feeling an extra pressure on him having turned pro following his NSW Open success late last year.

“All the people watching me today I sort of knew everyone so I kind of felt quite at home and I kind of enjoy it (pressure) to be honest.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend – there should be more people out here tomorrow.

“You know what to feel in the last couple of rounds so I’m looking forward to it.”