A pre-round pep talk from Olympic legend Dawn Fraser has helped to catapult the Sunshine Coast’s Cassie Porter to fifth spot after day two of the Women’s NSW Open at Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Golf Club.
Overnight leader Maja Stark bounced back from a bogey-bogey start to post three-under 69 in Friday’s second round to be one stroke clear at seven-under, Lydia Hall (67) and Magdalena Simmermacher (67) tied for second at six-under.
England’s Alice Hewson (70) is outright fourth a shot further back followed by Porter, whose 68 was bettered by only three players on Friday and is owed in part to some words of wisdom from Fraser.
A long-time friend of the family, Fraser is the Patron of the WPGA Tour Australasia and has taken a particular interest in Porter’s development since turning professional late last year.
The four-time Olympic gold medal winner was in the gallery following Porter’s group around the Coolangatta West Course on Friday and was watching on as the 19-year-old made five birdies in the space of six holes around the turn.
Porter made four birdies on the trot from the 11th hole – the first three of which were from 30 feet – and when she holed a 25-footer for par at 16 was in a state of shock watching putt after putt fall in.
It was a stark turnaround after bogeys at both opening holes yet was due in part to Fraser’s advice prior to teeing off.
“The last three months since I turned pro, I’ve just had this complex with pace putting,” Porter explained.
“I just can’t get it out of my head and it’s genuinely a complex because I putted so badly at the WPGA (Championship).
“I know I can do it because when I’m practising or in a practice round pace is perfect but as soon as it becomes a tournament round it goes out the window and I’m leaving putts 10 foot short, hitting them 10 feet past.
“I talked to her last night and said that I’ve literally got a mental block and I’m just not sure how to get around it.
“We had a good chat yesterday afternoon and this morning and it helped.”
Ironically, it was a putt that somehow didn’t go in that gave Porter the confidence to go on a birdie blitz.
After dropped shots at the first two holes Porter had a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-3 third that looked destined to drop, only to catch a chunk of the left side of the hole and spit out.
Despite that disappointment, a tap-in for par was a welcome relief.
“It probably didn’t look like it from the outside but because my pace has been quite awful the last three months on the third hole, the par 3, I had a 40-footer for birdie and my pace was actually really good,” she added.
“That gave me a little bit more confidence with my pace so my comfort didn’t come from the birdie (at four) because I knew if I stayed patient they’d come.
“It was more being confident in myself and my pace and remembering what Dawn told me.
“It’s nice to have Dawn there to comfort me and the sense that I can just go and enjoy it.”
Three strokes off the lead at the halfway point, a continuation of that type of putting could deliver a maiden Ladies European Tour title, and a significant change to her schedule for 2022 and beyond.
“As we all know things can change in a heartbeat when you play professional golf so just taking it day by day,” said Porter, who is eyeing off LPGA Tour Q School later in the year.
“If doors open, they open, but if not, I’m going to open some doors myself.”
Chasing a maiden LET title Whitney Hillier made a move of her own on Friday, making just one bogey in a round of three-under 69 to be tied for 10th through 36 holes, level with Gold Coaster Jordan O’Brien (73) at two-under.
Teen amateurs Jeneath Wong (70) and Sarah Hammett (73) are tied for 15th heading into the weekend while Australia’s representatives at next month’s Queen Sirikit Cup – Kelsey Bennett (even par), Caitlin Pierce (two-over) and Kirsten Rudgeley (three-over) – also made the cut.
A member of the NSW Girls team and winner of the TPS Junior Players Series Hunter Valley, 16-year-old Novocastrian Ella Scyasbrook also qualified for the weekend with rounds of 76-73.