Sarah Jane Smith
NZ Golf & BWMedia
Queensland’s Sarah Jane Smith is just one stroke back after the opening round of the ISPS Handa New Zealand’s Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch.
The Queenslander is chasing New Zealand’s Stacey Tate and South Korean Seon Woo Bae who share the lead at four-under-par, 68.
Four other players share third position with Smith, local crowd favourite and Rolex Ranked World No. 4 Lydia Ko, England’s Charley Hull, France’s Alexandra Vilatte and qualifier Hyeji Lee from South Korea.
Bae, who plays on the KLPGA tour enjoys the Clearwater layout as it reminds her of courses back home in Korea. It was not surprising to see her up the top as she currently holds the course record, 64, which she shot last year in the second round.
NZ Golf & BWMedia
Meanwhile Tate, who reignited her professional career after a four year hiatus from the game, was pinching herself after her first visit to the Media Centre.
“I started off pretty shaky, it is always pretty nerve-wracking coming to your National Open and wanting to do well,” said the 29-year-old from Auckland’s North Shore who didn’t have a practice round.
“But once I got into the round it started to flow.”
It sure did. Tate made five birdies in a row to start her back nine and then added another on seven to get to six-under par for the event. It was a surreal feeling for Tate – who has worked in real estate, as a personal trainer and now golf administration - after not playing competitively for some time.
“I gave the game away for about four years. I was pretty sick of it. I stepped back from the game and went back into the real world and got some perspective on life. Golf is my happy place so it is good to be back.”
It was the sort of round golfer’s dream of, until the bogey – bogey finish that is.
“These things happen,” she said with a laugh. “That was probably a bit of nerves to be honest. I am pretty pleased with the way I played.”
On a very cold and overcast day in Christchurch, Smith carded a bogey free opening round, with birdies on her first hole, the 10th, the par 4 3rd hole and her last the par 3 9th.
Smith was happy with her day, “Today, I felt really comfortable, I gave myself a lot of chance which was nice. “
The LPGA based player had been working on her ball striking over the summer break and she said “it felt solid today.”
It was an indifferent opening nine holes for Ko, after starting with a birdie on her opening hole, the 10th, she followed that with three bogeys on her next eight holes to go out in two-over-par. However, the superstar that she is, turned her form around and posted five birdies on her back nine, including a chip in on her last hole of the day, the par 3 9th to sign for her 69.
“The back nine was definitely the highlight especially chipping in on the last hole. I didn’t give myself too many opportunities to make birdie on the front nine. I wasn’t hitting it too good and then I warmed up.” Said the World No. 4
“I putted really well and made a lot of saves for par from around six feet. My putting was definitely better than the rest of my game.”
Hull, who was playing in the marquee group with Ko and Victorian Stacey Keating, she was happy with her start. It could have been a disastrous start when her opening tee shot went a little to the right and bounced twice on two different cart paths and finished just inside the out of bounds. She made a superb recovery to make birdie. She signed for a 69 as well.
Of the other Australians in the field, Kristie Smith, Rebecca Artis and Jessica Speechley are all at two-under and share eighth position. While, Tamie Durdin, Elissa Jayne Orr and Keating are a shot further back.
Round two gets underway at 7.15am local time, the cut will be made at the end of the second round, with the top 50 professionals and ties progressing through to the final round.