Date: February 01, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Leaders scoff at missed practice



Practice? Way over-rated!

Just ask women’s Oates Vic Open leader Beth Allen and her nearest rival Cheyenne Woods, who belied unusual preparations to dominate 13th Beach today.

The American pair were among those to arrive late from the weekend’s LPGA Tour event in the Bahamas, slashing their opportunities to practice on the Barwon Heads links.

But you wouldn’t have known it looking at the leaderboard as the pair combined for 12 birdies and just one bogey on the Creek Course.

It was impressive for the Scotland-based Allen (-6), who’s more at home in the wind than most American golfing visitors to the Bellarine Peninsula, because she’s been a regular visitor.

But for Woods (-5), on Vic Open debut and having never even walked the course, it was superb, especially given her clubs didn’t arrive until late on Wednesday afternoon.

“My caddie was great – he came out yesterday and walked both courses and did his homework,” Woods said.

“It was nice to be was able to make a few putts and give myself a lot of opportunities. I hit the ball well, which helped a lot on my first time out here.”

Woods, 27, joked that she might have to adopt the new preparation process for future events.

“I just took a nap and relaxed yesterday – it was great.

“So yeah, maybe just take naps and come out here and play golf. I also think it was nice after such a long travel day that it forced me to rest.”

Allen, the likeable veteran of many Australian campaigns, was similarly chilled in her beachside surrounds.

“I’m totally at ease in Australia, especially here. It’s great to be back and I’m really stoked that it’s an LET event now and it’s a really great way to start the European season,” said Allen, who primarily cashed in on the par-fives with four birdies of a possible five on the longer holes.

“But this is a special place, I have lots of friends around. It’s good to be back.

“I only arrived yesterday morning and didn’t have tons of expectations which is usually good when you’re playing golf, so I just woke up and said, `Let’s see what happens’.

“It’s great to have (former Women’s Australian Open champion) Sophie (Gustafson as caddie) again. I kind of had visions of 2016 which was awesome and we had a lot of fun out there.”

On a day largely dominated by Ladies European Tour players, Swede Camilla Lennarth (-4), Scotland’s Kylie Henry (-3) and England’s 2016 champ Georgia Hall (-3) were all prominent.

Not unsurprisingly, all of the above and were tucked away after calmer morning rounds, so it should be noted clearly that Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg and Australia’s world No.20 Minjee Lee did exceptionally well to share fourth at three under in the afternoon’s stiffer breeze.

“I was really happy with that given I haven’t played (competitively) in so long,” said Lee, the 2014 champion here as an amateur.

“I gave myself a lot of chances, particularly late in the round and didn’t make many putts, so for my first hit since the middle of November, that was all right.”

Alongside Lee as leading Australian is Wollongong’s Tahnia Ravnjak, a newly minted pro recently returned from the American college system.

Another past champ, Geelong-based Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord finished five off the lead at two under, the same figure as the legendary dual Women’s Australian Open champion Laura Davies.

Of the other Australians, newly professional Karis Davidson, Adelaide’s Steph Na and Sarah Kemp, of New South Wales, each shot -1.

Hannah Green fought back well from an early double-bogey on the Beach Course to sign at even par alongside Whitney Hillier, Bec Artis and young amateur Jess Pickwick.

Su Oh and Stacey Peters fired +1 opening marks alongside defending champ Mel Reid, all at T45 and narrowly inside the top 60 pros and ties who will make the halfway cut after tomorrow’s second round.