Date: February 22, 2013

Men’s Vic Open – Day 2 Wrap

He’s won it before and New South Wales golfer Andre Stolz has played himself into a great position to triumph again in the Victorian Open.

Stolz holds a one shot lead over Victorian Steve Jones and West Australian Stephen Dartnall at the half-way mark of the PGA Tour of Australasia tournament being played at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links, Barwon Heads.

There’s a bunch of players a further shot back that includes two-time Australian Masters champion Bradley Hughes, US PGA Tour winner Craig Parry and impressive amateur Cameron Smith.

Stolz bounced back from a double bogey late in his final round to hold the outright lead heading into the weekend.

The 2002 Vic Open champion believes he can continue his solid form over the next two days and join the list of those who have won the event multiple times.

“I’m really happy with the way I’m swinging the club. My putter, that was originally a broomstick and I cut it down to a belly putter, now I’ve turned into a short putter. It’s the same head but it feels pretty good,” Stolz said.

“I haven’t been holing everything but I’ve made what I should have made, all the short ones expect for a three putt on the 12th today.

“All you can ask for is get yourself into a good spot and see what happens from there.”

Stolz said he was able to salvage his round after the double bogey immediately with a birdie on the next hole.

“I got a little bit aggressive on the little par three. I was felling food, I’d just missed a few birdie putts so I was a bit steamed and trying to push and make some more and I was getting frustrated,” he said.

“I went at the flag but I cut it way right and it was dead. But then I hit two of the best shots I’ve hit in a long time on eight, driver and four iron straight into the teeth of the wind and made birdie.”

Jones was satisfied with his round of even par in the breezy afternoon conditions.

The local boy, who grew up in Geelong, is excited to be playing in the final group in Saturday’s third round.

“I had mum and dad out there (watching today), my uncle and some family friends and hopefully some more people will come out over the weekend,” he said.

“It’s good to be in contention in any tournament but when it’s at home it’s even better.”

Melbourne’s Michael Choi provided the highlight of the day, breaking the Beach Course record with a stunning round of eight under par 64 to catapult himself into contention.

Choi fired nine birdies and a bogey as he bounced back from an opening round of 77 to rocket up the leaderboard into a tie for 12th at three under par.

“I got off to a steady start and then got hot on the front nine,” Choi, who earlier this month qualified to play on the OneAsia Tour this year, said after his round.

“I played well, it was just the wind that blew around me so I was actually pretty optimistic about today, if the wind didn’t pick up, to try and shoot a low one.

“My goal was just to make the cut after (my round) yesterday. I was just trying to make birdies. I’m hitting it well, so all fingers crossed.”

Dartnell last month qualified to play in this year’s British Open, being played at Muirfield in July, and said playing 13th Beach was good preparation for what he can expect in the UK.

“Obviously the experience will happen in July, but it should be awesome and I can’t wait,” Dartnell said.

“Anytime you get to play in the wind on links-style courses is good preparation.”

At one stage in his opening round Smith was four over par. But the 19-year-old Queensland played himself into contention with a five-under par 67 today.

The reigning Australian Amateur champion played alongside Parry and the veteran was impressed by his composure.

“He’s a really good player, very impressive, can hit all the shots, he’s got all the game and is a really nice young kid,” Parry said of Smith.

Smith finished tied for fourth at last week’s Queensland PGA in Toowoomba and said it’s great for his career to experience what it’s like being in contention at professional events.

“It’s definitely good to play in these tournaments and see where your game is at against these guys,” Smith said.

Parry, who hit off early in the morning, mused over two dropped shots late in his round that would have seen him tied for the lead.

“It was really out there for a good score, the golf course was really receptive for the shots and the greens were rolling really true,” Parry said.

“At least I’ve made the cut – that’s a start. I didn’t make the cut the last time I played so I’ve made the cut here and we’ll see what happens on the weekend.”

Parry said it’s been pleasing to see healthy crowds out supporting the players and the event on the Bellarine Peninsula.

“It’s been good that they’ve been able to walk the fairways,” Parry said.

“Sometimes when the galleries are so far back it makes it a little bit harder to create an atmosphere. Whereas here the galleries are right up close to us, they see what clubs we hit into the greens and things like that.”

Among the big names to miss the cut is Australian PGA champion Daniel Popovic and New Zealand trio Mark Brown, Gareth Paddison and Phil Tataurangi and former Vic Open winner Michael Clayton.

For all the up-to-date news regarding the 2013 Vic Open, check Golf Victoria’s website, and follow @VicOpenGolf on Twitter.

By: Bradley Green (Vic Open Freelancer)