A course record that confounded former US Open Geoff Ogilvy has given New South Wales rookie Nathan Barbieri a three-shot lead following the opening round of The Players Series Victoria Hosted by Geoff Ogilvy at Rosebud Country Club.
The first in what both the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and WPGA Tour hope will become a tournament staple on the local golf calendar, the TPS Victoria format gathers leading men, women and amateurs in the same field with top juniors to be added for the weekend rounds.
A ferocious wind that kicked in overnight and maintained its strength throughout the first round kept the majority of a star-studded field in check, yet Barbieri managed to blow the competition away over the opening 18 holes.
A professional for little more than a month, the 2019 Australian Amateur runner-up finished third at the Northern Territory PGA Championship in October and was five under through six holes in round one of the Gippsland Super 6 last week before stumbling late.
Three birdies in his opening three holes was another display of Barbieri’s ability to start fast and he used the lessons of seven days ago to post a 10-under 61 and establish a handy buffer.
“It’s the perfect start so you just reset and keep going and keep taking your chances,” Barbieri said of his trifecta of birdies from the opening hole.
“I definitely got ahead of myself last week. Just counting the birdies I’d had and wondering what I was through the amount of holes.
“Every time I thought of that today I had to erase everything and tell myself to start again.
“It was near to perfect golf. Obviously starting well last week gave me a bit of confidence coming in. It was a good day.”
A member at Bonnie Doon Golf Club – host of the second event in The Players Series from March 4-7 – Barbieri holed a bunker shot at the par-5 9th to make the turn at six-under 29, par saves at 11 and 17 and four additional birdies smashing the previous course record at Rosebud of 64.
“I hit it into the hazard on the right at 11 and got up and down. It was a dry hazard so that was definitely a momentum boost to keep going in the round and then I birdied the next two,” Barbieri said.
“Seventeen I hit it down the right and had to punch it through the trees to the greenside bunker and got up and down. So there were a couple of good up and downs that definitely kept the momentum going.”
Eight birdies and a lone bogey was better than Ogilvy expected when he arrived at the course and put him in position to win the trophy bearing his name on Sunday afternoon.
Far from playing a ceremonial role as host for the week, Ogilvy expressed his desire to follow up close friend Marcus Fraser’s win last week and get himself in the hunt over the weekend.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I can’t think of anything better,” Ogilvy said of the prospect of winning his own tournament.
“Every time I play I want to play well. I don’t necessarily miss touring and all that but I miss being in contention and having a chance. The goal is always to get the feelings going again and get in the mix on Saturday and Sunday.
“I hadn’t played much, no expectations. Last week was kind of OK and shot a good score today.
“I don’t feel any responsibility to play well but it’s nice that I am.
“I didn’t think there was a mid-60s score there but after we got out there I thought if you holed a few putts you could go low.
“I didn’t see what I shot out there so 61 ... That’s a great score.”
LPGA of Japan Tour player Karis Davidson was the best of the female players in the morning wave but it was West Australian amateur Kirsten Rudgeley who compiled the equal best score of the afternoon to be the leading lady at three under.
Winner of the Port Phillip Open and Vic Amateur in December, 19-year-old Rudgeley is tied for seventh after day one and hopes to use the remaining three days to continue the development of her game.
“Any tournaments I get to play in is one step forward, that’s the way I look at it,” said Rudgeley, who received an invitation to play the event four weeks ago.
“Especially an event like this. It’s the first one ever being played so pretty happy with having the chance to be able to play.
“Doing really well in these sorts of events will give me the encouragement to be able to think that I can actually make it.”
The 2017 Australian Amateur champion and youngest club champion in the history of Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Matias Sanchez is one shot behind Ogilvy in outright third with PGA Tour of Australasia winners Matthew Griffin and Aaron Pike tied for fourth at five under.
Karis Davidson’s two-under 69 puts her in a tie for 15th with rookie professional Stephanie Bunque and amateur Doey Choi the next best of the women in the field at one-under 70.