Avondale’s June Song has edged a shot clear of Western Australian rookie Kathryn Norris, and NSW Amateur runner-up Godiva Kim on day one of the Women’s NSW Open at Forster-Tuncurry Golf Club’s Tuncurry Course.
The rumpled coastal layout copped 41mm of rain in the space of an hour on the eve of the tournament, greens staff working through the night to have the course prepared for the opening tee shot at 8am.
Birdies were hard to come by early before the group of Song, Kathryn Norris and Katelyn Must came home in a collective nine-under par.
Song’s five-under 68 was the low round by day’s end, Norris just one stroke further back in a tie for second on 69 along with 14-year-old Queensland amateur Godiva Kim, Kiwi friends Momoka Kobori and Hanee Song in a share of fourth at three-under 70.
A semi-finalist at the NSW Amateur in January, Song was even par through eight holes before storming home with five birdies in her final 10 holes to assume the clubhouse lead.
Starting with a birdie at the par-3 ninth, Song picked up shots at 10 and 12 and then made back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to reach five-under.
She got up-and-down from the right of the green at the par-5 15th and then holed a 20-footer from the back of the 16th green to edge one clear, the flagstick providing a valuable assist.
“I hit a little 6-iron into 16 but I holed a big putt, which I wasn’t really expecting. If it missed the hole it would have gone off the green,” Song admitted.
“I just hit it a bit too hard. It was lucky.”
Coached by Mark and Ben Paterson at Avondale – the father-son duo who have guided Harrison Endycott to the heights of the PGA TOUR – Song has seen first-hand the pathway to the top of professional golf.
Although she is yet unsure whether it is the path she wants to take – sports journalism is another area of interest – she knows a win this week could be life-changing.
“It’s just really good to see how a PGA TOUR player operates and how professional it all is,” said Song, who spent time with Endycott at the Australian Open in December.
“It’s been a big inspiration to see how well Harro’s going. Hopefully I can feed off that.
“I’m honestly not sure what I’m going to do next.
“You never know, a tournament might change the whole thing around.”
Norris is only two months into her professional career after obtaining her WPGA Tour of Australasia card at Qualifying School in January.
The West Australian was tied for ninth in her professional debut at the Melbourne International a week later, reaffirming that she has the ability to compete at this level.
“I played with Karis (Davidson) and Momoka (Kobori) and that was a really cool experience in my first pro event,” said Norris, who birdied the final hole for her round of 69.
“It was nice to go OK and think that you do belong and, on your week, you can be just as good.”
A prominent position on a professional leaderboard is a very new experience for Godiva Kim.
The Gold Coast teenager was runner-up at the NSW Amateur two months ago and is in the midst of a hot-streak that she can’t explain.
“I was in a really rough patch for like a year-and-a-half and then all of a sudden it went up,” said Kim, who birdied the par-3 14th, chipped in for birdie on the par-5 15th and birdied the par-4 17th to rocket into contention.
“It came very suddenly so I was a bit surprised.”
Based at Links Hope Island, Kim’s fascination with golf sprouted at a young age, borrowing the lone golf book at the Bellevue Park State School library over and over again.
“My mum was like, ‘Why do you only borrow that one?’ I just liked looking at the pictures,” Kim explained.
But while two amateurs and a rookie sit on top, Kobori shapes as the biggest threat in the rear-view mirror.
The highest-ranked player in the field did get to four-under with a birdie on 14 to take the outright lead. She dropped a shot on 16 before making two clutch up-and-downs on 17 and 18 to keep the leaders within reach.
“It’s always nice when you finish out a round with a few solid up-and-downs or a few good putts,” said Kobori, a two-time winner on the LET Access Series last year.
“For me, being able to get those two up-and-downs, they were pretty big for me to be able to keep that momentum going for tomorrow.”