Date: February 22, 2018
Author: Roy Fleming

Experience is everything at Bonville

One is a social media star, the other golfing royalty.

Opening day at Bonville has proven nothing compares with experience when it comes to a new course, especially one as tough as Bonville in the heart of the Coffs Coast.

Dame Laura Davies used her decades of experience to post a solid round of one-under par, to be in the top 10 midway through the opening round.

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The British legend said: "If you make a mistake (here) you are going to get punished. I didn't make many mistakes, so one-under is a fair result. I could've had a couple more (birdies), but overall I'm really pleased."

Davies was one of many who three-putted the 18th, with a pin tucked deep back left.

"18 is extreme," she said.

"I'm not saying they shouldn't have a pin back there, but gee it's pretty tough. The only place you can hit it in hindsight is short dead uphill. Otherwise, you've got your work cut out."

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The benefit of experience also paid off for Indian Sharmilla Nicolet (70) who had former touring pro and Bonville head professional Richie Gallichan on her bag.

"Richie's been great," Nicolet said.

"He knows these greens and this course inside out, so it's been great. It was good teamwork today."

Having overcome injury this past season, and now playing without the burden of being the sole female Indian player on the European tour, Nicolet said she was enjoying some early success in 2018.

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"It's nice to see some results," she said.

"I've put in a lot of work since last year, changing my coach, going to the US for three months.

"I was the lone Indian (previously). Even this week it's nice to see two Indians playing out here. It does take a little pressure off."

One suspects Nicolet's army of followers on social media would be delighted with her return to form as well. The popular Indian has more than 490,000 followers on Instagram.

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Other rounds of note among the early starters came from Spaniard Marta Sanz Barrio who finished three-under in a nice return to form. The diminutive and quietly-spoken 26-year-old let her clubs do the talking.

"It's been a rough couple of weeks, but it's nice for me to find it (form) today."

The clubhouse leader after the morning rounds, however, came from England's Holly Clyburn who had a blemish-free five-under round and new course record in her first competitive outing at the course.

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"My iron play was pretty nice today. And when I had the chance to hole some putts they did what they were told and went in," she said.

"I just kept in the moment, kept digging deep and I played nicely coming in from the sixth. It was lovely."

Although she says she "is looking forward to heading home" after four weeks in Australia, there might be some incentive to include an extra week. Technically, Hyburn – who turned 27 earlier this month – is the defending champion of the women's NSW Open, having won the event at Oatlands in 2015, the last time the event was staged.

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Shot of the day so far belongs to amateur Belinda Ji, who aced the par-three 131m 17th.

Of the Australians, tournament favourite Hannah Green carded a two under par round of 70 to be in a tie for third.

The West Australian, who's boyfriend Jarryd Felton is defending his NZ PGA Championship title this week at Palmerston on NZ's North Island, birdied her final two holes in a strong finish.

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"It's tough. There are some tricky pin positions out there," the 21-year-old said.

"The greens were good. But it's tough to get it close sometimes.

"I didn't think I hit it very well today, but to be in contention at two-under makes me very happy."

Asked how she felt that both she and her partner (Jarryd) were starting tournaments as favourites in the same week, she said: "It's pretty cool. Happy that he's back in New Zealand. He's played some good golf there obviously with winning last year."