As the wind began to whip in the afternoon on Thursday at 13th Beach Golf Links, those with early tee times and good scores already signed for must have felt pretty good about their position.
Yet the likes of James Marchesani, who had back-to-back eagles at 10 and 11, and Zach Murray, in the clubhouse at six-under, saw John Lyras and Dimi Papadatos move past them to sit one and two on the leaderboard respectively after round one.
Lyras made five birdies on the back nine of the Creek Course to sign for eight-under, a score even he didn’t see coming when he arrived at the golf course for his Thursday round.
“Absolutely not,” the 25-year-old said when asked if he thought a 64 was in the offing. “Always rock up to the golf course and see what the best number is out there and just try and do your own thing and follow processes and hit every shot the best you can for whatever the number is. You are never really thinking about it too much.
“It was a bit windy out there today, every shot was its own beast, it was really nice to get one away early in this tournament.”
Papadatos made birdie at the par-5 18th of the Beach Course for a bogey-free 65 (-7) that has him in second alone, one in front of Marchesani, Murray, Cameron John and Andrew Martin.
A bunched group sits at five-under, including Tour winners Marcus Fraser, Jordan Zunic, Jake McLeod and local member Richard Green.
“I was happy with that, nice to get a good start,” Papadatos, who won this event at the same venue in 2017 said. “It was pretty windy, then the back nine it really picked up and was very strong. So was happy to make a couple coming in.
“It was a bit windy out there today, every shot was its own beast, it was really nice to get one away early in this tournament.” - John Lyras.
“I have obviously played well here before, so I know I can do it, I really like the course, I like coming down here, just enjoying my time. It is a great club, great atmosphere, regardless of the outcome it is always nice to be here, and a bonus to play well.”
Lyras’ low round might have come as a shock to some who don’t follow the Australian golf scene too closely, but for others it was quite the opposite. The St. Michael’s member has made a habit of putting plenty of birdies and eagles on his scorecard in his burgeoning career, and in December fired a course record 64 around Yarra Yarra in the Geoff Ogilvy/Mike Clayton brainchild event, the Sandbelt Invitational.
Lyras has also Monday qualified for two PGA Tour events, including the Byron Nelson just last year, an achievement that is only possible with some lights out play and scores closer to 60 than 70.
“It is just getting hot and carrying it over. Keep hitting good drivers, attacking the par-5s, playing them well, that is kind of the crux in the modern game these days,” he said of his ability go low.
RIGHT: Marcus Fraser got to five-under early and remained there to be part of a large group chasing Lyras. PHOTO: Adrian Logue.
“If you’re not playing the par-5s well you can’t really put together a good number. A lot of tough par-4s out there, and par-3s are always par holes. If you can make an eagle and play them well under par, that kind of springboards you into a good position to put a good number on the board.”
Lyras did just that by eagling the par-5 second on the Creek, his “good number” made more impressive given his practice rounds earlier in the week came with very little wind.
“I think there were a couple of shots out there that fooled us all. Playing the practice round with no wind on Tuesday. When you don’t see a golf course with a certain type of wind it is always tricky and you kind of have to go on your instincts and zone in on your target and commit to every shot,” Lyras said.
With an early tee time tomorrow and little wind expected, Lyras has the opportunity to further his advantage as he looks to do something he is yet to achieve in his professional career, win a four round event.
Plenty of quality players sit close by however, and with three Open Championship spots on offer as well, it might not be the easiest night’s sleep on the Bellarine Peninsula for Lyras. A somewhat restless night perhaps intensified by the tournament within the tournament between he and Papadatos for low Greek-Australian.
“He’s (Lyras) the top Greek at the moment, he’s got the title,” laughed Papadatos. “Don’t know how Steph (Kyriacou) went today but she might be in third spot.”