Date: February 21, 2015
Author: Martin Blake

Purple patch for Aussie Kirk


Katherine Kirk wore a bright purple shirt and found a bright purple patch with the putter.

As a result, the Australian is right in the mix at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open going into tomorrow's final round.

Kirk, the 32-year-old Sunshine Coast woman who has spent a decade plying her trade on the LPGA in America, rolled in five birdie putts in just six holes on the back nine today to card a three-under 70 and roar up the leaderboard.

In a heavily-laden international field, the Open finally had an Australian challenger.

Kirk is four-under par, just three shots from the lead held by world No. 1 Lydia Ko and Thailand's boom teenager Arija Jutanigarn.

Later, she said the Open had the feel of a major, comparing it with the United States Open at Pinehurst last year. She said she was "puzzled'' at how she made six birdies on greens that baked in the 35-degree heat to the point where she could see the players' footmarks.

Runner-up at Royal Pines last week when the airline did not deliver her clubs and attire until just before the tournament. "This week's definitely been an easier preparation than last week,'' she said, with a big smile.

Through 10 holes today she was three-over and struggling, but her putting was dynamic on the back nine, including two long birdie putts at the 13th and the 16th.

"The front nine, I just struggled with the speed, and I guess on the back nine I just figured it out,'' she said. "You know that you're going to make some bogeys out here. It's just a tough golf course and they're inevitable. My mindset all week has been 'just grind it out'. I certainly didn't expect to make as many birdies as I made today.

"I played with Ariya Jutanugarn on Thursday-Friday and she made seven birdies on Thursday and I didn't know how she did it. That mindset is kind of helping me get through and you know it's going to be a grind out here from start to finish. There's not a tee shot where you stand up and say 'this is an easy hole'.''

Kirk said she would take the same game plan into tomorrow's final round in a thrust at winning her first national title. "Tomorrow I won't be thinking much about it,'' she said. "I'll be playing one shot at a time. I know that's really cliched, but around here you have to stay totally in the moment because every shot is demanding.''

The Patricia Bridges Bowl, the trophy for the Women's Open, is there for the taking. Kirk said she had the privilege of travelling with Patricia Bridges, the former stalwart of women's golf administration, in 2002 as an amateur when she represented Australia at the world amateur teams titles. "She (Bridges) i's just an incredible lady and I'd be delighted to host the trophy and proudly fly the flag for Australia.''