Back-to-Back birdies on her final two holes have propelled Maja Stark back into the outright lead of the Women’s NSW Open after an enthralling second round at Coolangatta Tweed Heads Golf Club.
With Wales’ Lydia Hall setting the mark at six under after the morning half of the draw completed their round, anticipation was high that Stark would deliver another effort the equal to her day one effort.
Sadly, it didn’t start that way, with the Swede stumbling out of the gate. An errant shot on the first found the water, and with the snafu still in her mind, another stumble on the second compounded into back-to-back bogeys. Two more birdies on the front helped, but Stark still only managed to turn for home one over for the day.
“I hit my hybrid with a big face on the range, so I think I overcompensated a bit,” Stark admitted post-round.
“I didn’t make up and down, and I didn’t do it on the hole after that either.
“I can’t remember anything from the round! It was a lot of up and downs, I do know that. It was very frustrating,” she admitted
With English not her native tongue, Stark scolded herself in Swedish a few times during the round.
“I was giving myself a few lectures. It is good that English isn’t my native language because people might have known what they said, but now they don’t. “
Whatever was said, and however it worked, is all academic as the back nine was an altogether different affair for the Race to Costa Del Sol leader.
A Birdie on 10 ignited the Swede, and two more on 12 and 13 saw her grab a share of the lead.
A dropped shot on 15 halted her charge, but Stark finished in style with birdies on 17 and 18 to jump a shot clear.
“I was able to make a few putts on the back nine, so that made me a little bit happier again, so I’m happy now.”
“[Jokingly] I figured if Cassie made two bogeys on the first two holes, that I would do it too. I figured it would be good.
Despite her adventures, Stark is still happier with the lead than to be part of the chasing pack as the weekend begins.
“It is always good to be in the lead.,” she smiled. “I just want to take the good stuff from these two rounds because I made more bogeys than I usually do when I shoot these scores.
“I just need to believe in myself and be confident. Just focus on the good stuff with my game. There is no playing defensively here; I enjoy it when it works,”Stark said.
Magdalena Simmermacher also vaulted herself into contention this afternoon after a firing the equal low round of the day, a five under 67, to join Lydia Hall one back of the leader, Stark.
The Argentinian quietly went about her business and converted her share of chances when they presented themselves. four birdies on her front nine saw her jump to within a shot of the lead, and when she binned another on the 10th she was sitting alongside Hall at six under.
“I didn’t make a birdie on the first, but I kept on going and giving myself chances,” Simmermacher said.
“The birdies came on four and six, then I birdied nine and 10, which are par-fives, and then some par-fours I left it really close and then on some I made really long putts. It was fun out there.”
Simmermacher said she had been struggling with her irons of late, but the confidence was returning and all she had to do was to keep giving herself chances. She also admitted the course suited her eye and the greens were to her liking.
I think my irons were the strongest part of my game because I gave myself chances. I have been struggling with short distances with the fairways, like 70 metres. I have been struggling with that and that’s why I hadn’t been making too many birdies, but I played overall good and today I gave myself a lot of chances.”
“I like the course.I tend to hit the ground a lot so I try to leave myself a little longer distance so I can hit it closer. I find the greens really nice, they roll good and they’re pretty fast.”
As for the weekend, the Argentinian said she wasn’t going to change her approach much, if at all.
“I think my strategy is the same. I will try and give myself chances and on par-fives I will try to take advantage. For the rest of the course I will try to keep it on the fairway and then give myself a chance and if the putt will go in then that’s great. Four days is a long way.
Earlier in the day, Wales’ Lydia Hall found the Coolangatta Tweed Layout also much to her liking. Despite overnight rain removing some run from the fairways, Hall crafted a fine five-under 67, jumping from outside the top 10 and into the lead for much of the day.
“I got in my stride and played quite nicely, “Hall said post-round.
“It was a little wet in areas underfoot, but the course is in great condition considering the weather that they’ve had done here over the last couple of months. Really enjoyable, lovely morning, nice and warm now and looking forward to an afternoon off.”
Adjusting to the greens, which are firmer and faster than Bonville, had also been a strategy that she and her caddie, DT, had worked on this week. With only 31 putts for the round, the plan appears to be paying off.
“The goal coming into this week was keep it in the middle of the greens, and you’re only going to be about 20 feet at the most,” she explained.
“The greens were rolling a lot better this morning, and there were some nice positions.
Hall has been a regular visitor to Australian shores for several seasons and earlier this year took part in several TPS events alongside the men. It was an experience she said she would like to see more of.
“I’ve been here for five or six months on and off, so I’ve played quite a lot here in the Australian summer.
“The TPS events were great. They were a great way to get the season going, I really enjoyed playing with the guys, so hopefully there can be a bit more of that and avoid the British winter again next year. Fingers crossed,” she grinned.