The greens were soft and skies unexpectedly dry, yet the host club somehow managed to defend itself on day one of the Queanbeyan Open today.
James Grierson and Jordan Zunic share the lead at four-under after each threatened to go lower, with a host of legitimate contenders still within reach.
Hometown hero Matt Millar and in-form Sydneysider Andrew Evans are both one shot adrift and will form a bumper final foursome with the finale to be played in fourballs to avoid bad weather tomorrow.
Hot on their heels are defending champion Deyen Lawson, Brady Watt, Nathan Barbieri, Alexander Simpson and amateur Andre Lautee, all just two shots off the lead at two under.
Grierson, 29, came from the “unseeded” side of the morning draw, but started in blazing style with birdies on the ninth, 10th and 13th.
When the Forbes product turned and birdied the second and third holes, he threatened to blow the field away but fell back to four under with a bogey on the testing par-three sixth.
I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve been here before and haven’t scored well, so it was nice feeling to have done a few days with (coach) John Serhan and (renowned biomechanist) Ryan Lumsden and then to come out and see almost immediate improvement.
“I holed a couple of decent putts on the first two holes (ninth and 10th), and then all of a sudden, you’re just away.
“I’ve been working on lowering my expectations, but making my standards higher,” said Grierson, who said playing with popular club pro Jake Nagle and local amateur Matt Doyle had helped him stay at ease with a few laughs during their round.
“It’s really good to just enjoy your golf like that … it plays out well for me.”
Zunic, who’s as enthusiastic as he’s been for years, made an adventurous eagle on the third when he tugged his drive far enough left that it bordered the fourth and seventh fairways.
“From there, it was actually a really good angle in and I hit a 7-iron to about 15 feet and knocked it in … it was a nice way to get going,” he said.
Zunic made a bogey on the par-4 seventh hole, but took advantage of his length with two more back-nine birdies on the par-fives.
“I’m just learning to take advantage of things when they present themselves, so that was a good thing, too.”
Millar, a prolific touring pro who returned his “day job” as a coach at nearby Federal Golf Club after his morning round, was a study in keeping his nerve.
The recent Murray Open champ made a double-bogey six up the first hole, but calmly navigated his way back to a fine 67, including a back-nine 31.
Fresh from a brilliant victory at the recent Japanese Tour Q-school, Evans went out hot and looked particularly ominous until a three-putt bogey on the ninth stalled him and sent him back to three under.
From there, Evans was all aboard the par train and finished at the same score.
Lawson, who opened here last year with a spectacular 61, didn’t look far from his damaging best but gave away a couple of back-nine bogeys when he seemed set to pounce.
Of the other fancies, Justin Warren carded an opening even-par 70, Grace Kim a 71 and Scott Arnold a 72.