Whitney Hillier and Hannah Green have known each other for a long time.
More than 10 years by Green’s estimations, but for the first time in a long time, the pair will play together in a tournament round on Saturday at the Vic Open.
Former teammates on the ultra-successful Western Australia state team as amateurs, a side that included Minjee Lee and won three interstate titles, Hillier and Green sit one and two on the leaderboard at 13th Beach after 36 holes.
Hillier was out early Friday on the Creek Course, where the Ladies European Tour player crafted a second straight five-under round, an eagle at the par-5 second, her 11th, part of a day that saw her sit at 10-under, two clear of Green.
Somewhat surprisingly, the wind was up early on the Bellarine Peninsula during the morning, and Hillier attributed a key element of professional golf that she has improved in recent times for her score and position as leader in front of the marquee player in the women’s field.
“I stayed patient all day yesterday. And today again, it was blowing a gale,” Hillier said. “I placed it in all the right positions really, only one got me with the sucker pin on 16. Other than that, played really well.
“More mentally than everything, it is just nice to be able to play calm and you’ve to stay in the moment more than anything. That is what I have improved on quite a lot, and putting also. It is nice to see it going in the hole.”
Whereas Hillier was done with her work early and able to enjoy some down time on the Bellarine Peninsula on Friday afternoon, Green was out on course reaching eight-under playing alongside Su Oh, who lurks as a threat at four-under.
Green once again benefited from the length added in recent times as she navigated the Beach Course in 70 shots. The 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA champion not having her best stuff on the back nine, but remaining bogey free for the tournament so far. Albeit with a slightly sour taste in her mouth after three putting the par-5 last.
“Just felt really flat the back nine, felt with the wind direction and the pin positions it was kind of hard to get close,” Green said. “And it is always hard to capitalise when you do. Was a little annoyed with the three putt on the last for par, but still in really good position only a couple away from Whip (Whitney Hillier) and haven’t played with her in so long. So it will be really fun to play with her.
“It is what I am here for, I am here to win. I can’t wait for the weekend. Whatever happens, happens, but I am just going to have some fun.” - Whitney Hillier.
“I usually get messages from my coaches saying my scorecard is a bit too colourful for the wrong reasons, so it is really nice to not have a bogey, so I hope I can keep that up and make a few more putts.”
Playing alongside Hillier last occurred at the Women’s Open Championship in 2021 during a practice round, and while both are determined to win the title, there will be plenty of smiles and conversation between the pair. At least until Sunday.
“It’s been too long,” Green said of teeing it up with the player known universally as ‘Whippa’.
“It probably will,” she added when asked if the vibe between the pair will change on Sunday. “But I think we both feel the same way, we aren’t trying to be rude or get in each other’s way, it is a high intensity situation, but it is not like we are ignoring each other or walking down the opposite side of the fairways, but it will be interesting to see how it goes over the weekend.”
For her part, Hillier was finished before Green had confirmed herself as a playing partner, but was simply happy to be back in Australia and playing tournament golf after an extended hiatus thanks to Covid.
“It is just nice to be home, it has been two years since I’ve been back,” the 31-year-old said. “I am just so happy to be quite honest and playing is a bonus, but overall, pretty good.”
Although the face of the women’s tournament and the leader in the final group will attract plenty of attention on Saturday, those under par certainly won’t consider themselves out of things.
Cassie Porter sits alongside Oh, six shots back of Hillier, while Karis Davidson will be keen to make amends on Saturday after a second round 76 saw her slip back to three-under for the tournament.
For her part, Green is welcoming the attention on her all week, that included the biggest crowd without ropes following her on Friday.
“I love it. You have to embrace it and I feel like if you’re nervous it is for the right reasons. Might have take a few breaths come tomorrow and Sunday but it was for the right reasons,” she said.
Make no mistake though, Hillier too is looking forward to having plenty of eyeballs on her over the weekend. And going toe-to-toe with her old teammate turned friendly foe.
“Yeah good, I love it,” she said when asked of a final grouping with the World No.30. “It is what I am here for, I am here to win. I can’t wait for the weekend. Whatever happens, happens, but I am just going to have some fun.”