Date: April 13, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Hall, Kay strike early blows

Neither are in front, but Stef Hall and Becky Kay have plenty to like about their Australian Junior Championship chances after an entertaining first day at Devonport Golf Club.

New Zealand’s Momoka Kobori leads after a day of low scores, her seven-under-par 67 the culmination of some precision iron play on a lovely day in northern Tasmania.

But Hall and Kay, both of whom have experience representing Australia, sit handily just one back after 68s that left each delighted with their progress.

Hall, 16, came out of the blocks in dazzling form, canning “pretty much everything I looked at” with her red-hot putter.

The Year 11 student at Shellharbour Anglican College near Wollongong said her game had improved greatly since playing for Australia in the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation Junior Championship in Taiwan in August.

“With my coach Steve McRae (from Russell Vale Golf Club near Bulli), I’ve really put a lot more work into course preparation and planning and it’s probably taken a couple of shots off (per round),” said Hall, who opened with four consecutive birdies and six in her first seven holes.

“It gives me confidence that I know what I’m going to (confront) before each round.”

Hall’s six-under round was her best score ever to par and featured an 11m bomb for a birdie two on the 14th, but surprisingly no further inroads on the back-nine par-5s.

Conversely, Gold Coaster Kay made light work of the late long holes, with eagles on the 11th and 13th holes to charge through the field.

That was a far cry from the early part of the Golf Australia national squad member’s round when she “couldn’t make a putt”.

“I was a couple over (after six) but I just made a birdie putt or two and then things started going in,” said the Coolangatta-Tweed member who has put behind her some indifferent results earlier in the summer.

“I’ve definitely improved since then and I’m getting stronger with all the work we are doing. It’s much better now that I actually know what’s happening on the course when I go out there again.,” she said with a laugh.

Toowoomba’s Darcy Hobgood and Mandurah’s Kathryn Norris sit tied fourth at five under, while top-ranked Karis Davidson, of Sanctuary Cove, is among a group of four at four under.

Defending champ Celina Yuan, of Sydney, finished at one under, as did Victorian Kono Matsumoto who rattled off four late birdies after her chances looked to be waning early.

The top 60 and ties after tomorrow’s second round will advance to the final 36 holes on Friday.