Papua New Guinea amateur Brian Taikiri has had the round of his career to share the first-round lead of his hometown PNG Open at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club.
Taikiri’s bogey-free nine-under-par 63, an equal course record, was matched by New South Welshman Dale Brandt-Richards who also handed in a blemish-free card.
A member of Royal Port Moresby Golf Club, Taikiri surprised even himself with his lowest score.
“I didn’t expect this, to be honest,” Taikiri said with a smile.
“I just went out and played my own game, this being my home course I knew what the course record was but I don’t normally shoot this in a normal Saturday competition.
“That’s the best score I’ve ever had on any course, but scoring that on my home course I’m privileged and honoured to have done that.”
Taikiri’s knowledge of his home track shone through on the back nine, charging home with five birdies, four consecutively from the 14th.
“I finished with those four birdies in a row so I’m very happy with that, four birdies on the front-9 and 5-under on the back.”
His next goal is to make his first cut in his national Open.
“I haven’t made the cut in the PNG Open yet, but shooting this score is certainly going to help me early,” Taikiri said.
“It will be much of the same for me tomorrow; I’ll just come out, relax and try to have fun.”
Brandt-Richards, who has played every PNG Open since it became part of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia schedule, also had some local knowledge at his disposal.
“This is my third trip over here so I know what to expect and today I had my caddie Morris who’s been on the bag every year in PNG,” Brandt-Richards said.
“So he came in and read a couple putts for me just to double check my reads. He’s on a three handicap, so I trust his judgment and a few went in.
“I think I missed one green out there today and I was hitting it pretty solid all day off the tee.
“I hit it close a lot, I still missed a few putts but holed a couple and was able to get to nine under.”
Hot on the leading pair’s heels is New South Welshman Alex Edge, who finished with a 64 and with another clean card.
“I got off to a pretty patchy start, I was in the trees a little bit but a made a couple of good up and downs,” Edge said.
“I ended up chipping in for par on my second hole and then I chipped in for birdie on the next hole, so that was pretty rare to have two of those in a row. I knew I was going to be in for a good day when that sort of stuff happens at the beginning.
“I’ve been driving it well the last couple of days and if I keep doing that I can give myself a lot of opportunities on this course.”
Another Sydneysider, Scott Arnold, playing his first PNG Open, holds outright fourth after a posting a 66 in the morning field.
“I started off a bit scratchy, I was a couple over after the first six holes but had eight birdies over my last 12 holes,” he said.
“I started to find a bit of form, hole a few putts and got a bit of momentum; then everything fell in to place.”
Lachlan McDonald, Aaron Pike, Brody Martin, Taylor Macdonald, Tim Stewart, Antonio Murdaca and Hayden Webb are in a tie for fifth after rounds of four-under 68.
Englishman Jon Kennedy provided one of the highlights of the day, nailing an ace on the par-three 18th to put a smile on his face after a tough opening round.
“It was a good way to finish after stumbling through for most of my round. It was a 7-iron, we thought we’d lost it in the shadows and it wasn’t until we got to the green we realised,” Kennedy said.