Two years ago Travis Smyth says he could barely sleep before making his professional debut here at Twin Creeks, home of the NSW Open.
Smyth, then 22, had already won as an amateur and was keen to begin his pro career in a similar fashion. This morning, with two years of professional golf behind him, he did as he would have dreamt back then: slicing open Twin Creeks to rifle up the leaderboard.
Until a wayward tee shot on 18, Smyth looked destined to be the clubhouse leader having reached nine under before a double-bogey six shortened his smile.
“I didn’t have the best warm-up today – I actually felt a little sick. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, or how I was going to play … but in the end I had it on a string,” said Smyth, a regular now on the Asian Tour.
“Once I birdied eight, which is tough hole, I thought ‘this is good’ and then on nine I made a pretty (lucky) up and down for birdie and that just set the tone for the day.”
Smyth had the round of the morning in his hands on a day when some of Australia’s best young professionals and amateurs took advantage of perfect golfing conditions in the opening round of the AV Jennings NSW Open.
Whilst it looked like Smyth might be the name to beat by the afternoon players it was Min Woo Lee, a name golf fans are already very familiar with, who delivered on his enormous potential with an eight-under 64 in a morning defined by light wins and superb ball-striking.
Lee came of age in 2019 with his 21st birthday, and his opening three holes suggested the party was continuing. Birdies on 10 (his opening hole), 11, a magnificent eagle on the short par-four 12th (261m) were followed by birdies on 15 and 17 for a six-under front nine and signs that his formidable talent would deliver.
His back nine included three more birdies (5, 7 and 8) with a lone bogie on the formidable 186m par three 6th the only blemish on an otherwise excellent round of golf.
“It was stress-free,” said Lee after the round.
“There were a few holes where I got lucky … but I just took my medicine when I had to. There’s a lot of birdies to be had out there.”
Other rounds of note came from amateur Nathan Barbieri who at one stage was eight-under until a bogey at the 16th changed what was an otherwise beautiful round of golf. Like Min Woo, Barbieri also struck early with birdies on four of his five first holes, followed by another run from 9 through to 12.
On Barbieri’s bag this week is former NRL legend Braith Anasta who will add Barbieri to his impressive player management stable Searoo Sports, along with at least half a dozen professionals from his stable also competing in the Open.
Anasta liked what he saw in the brilliant young player.
“He (Barbieri) is such a great ball striker,” Anasta said of Barbieri.
“He has a great future ahead of him and we’re pretty happy with how he’s started today. he’s playing really well.”
Barbieri said he felt like he was in the zone, the same feeling club players occasionally experience, where everything goes right.
“It felt really good, it felt like I couldn’t miss in the end. I got a littl tentative towards the end, but I was pretty happy with it,” he said.
Central Coast professional Dimitrios Papadatos (Dimmy) – also in Anasta’s stable – shot a sublime seven-under 65 which included a run of three straight birdies on his opening nine from 16 through to 18, and Novocastrian amateur Jye Pickin who mixed his lone bogey at the 4th with six birdies to finish with a 65.
Further back, more than a dozen golfers were log-jammed at four-under including Australian golfing legend Peter Lonard.