There’ll be a lot of love in the final three-ball at tomorrow’s finale of the Western Open at Dubbo Golf Club.
And a truckload of birdies and eagles, to boot.
Moments after they realised they’d be in the same pairing, leader Daniel Gale and fellow Sydneysider Grace Kim reprised a personal challenge they’ve shared for years, the next edition of which might well shape the direction of this week’s trophy.
Throw in Queenslander Charlie Dann, a good friend to both and one of the most in-form players on the Australian PGA circuit, and the entertainment and banter is sure to flow.
Gale was nothing short of spectacular with his putter today, rolling in bomb after bomb from the ninth hole onwards to card a stunning 63.
Dann and Kim, making a stellar professional debut on Australian soil, each signed for 65.
Between the trio, they carded a staggering 19 birdies and four eagles between them on day one.
Gale led the charge. He played the five holes from 9-13 in six under par, including just for good measure a chip-in on the 13th after driving into the trees and pitching out to “take his medicine”.
“I missed a short par putt on the 16th, but I chipped in very unexpectedly (for birdie) on the 13th and pretty much boxed everything from the ninth through to the end,” Gale said.
The powerful 25-year-old spent much of his winter in Queensland to keep his hand in during the height of the pandemic near his home base at Castle Hill.
But while he’s come out firing as tournament golf resumes, including being in the penultimate group last week at Murray Downs, Gale said he’d try to keep his day two preparation as normal as possible.
“I’ll just go home tonight and chill and try not to think about it. If you think about it too much, you can overcomplicate things so I’ll keep my cool, calm and collected approach,” he said.
“I experienced that at Murray Downs, so I’ll be ready for it this time.”
Dann, one of the most respected people on tour, continued his great form having been runner-up at Murray Downs last week.
He made several surprising – even to himself – blunders during his round today, but pushed them aside each time and momentarily led when he nailed his second eagle in four holes on the reachable par-five 12th.
“My round had a bit of everything,” he confessed.
“I felt like I couldn’t do anything wrong, then on the next hole I felt sure I was going to take a bogey, and I did a couple of times.
“But I’m just happy that I made more birdies and eagles than bogeys, it’s actually really cool when that happens.”
Kim, grouped with tour legends Peter Lonard and Matt Millar, made light of her pro debut and was immediately at ease after making birdie on the second.
She only made one more on the front side, but also caught fire around the back nine and scythed through the field with an eagle on the 12th and three birdies on the bounce from the 14th.
That trio will be chased tomorrow by Kade McBride (66) alongside Mitch Davis and Newcastle amateur Jye Pickin – who each notched fine 67s – in the penultimate group.
Other key names in the hunt include New South Welshman Justin Warren, James Conran, and Nathan Barbieri, along with Tim Hart and white-hot Canberran Matt Millar, all within six of the leader.