The prospect of a maiden pay day has inspired newly-minted Victorian professional Andre Lautee to a two-stroke lead at the end of day one at the $50,000 Murray Open at Murray Downs Golf and Country Club.
The first of the NSW Open Regional Open Series – and the start of the roadway to the 2023 Play Today NSW Open – current stars and legends of Australian golf were upstaged by a 23-year-old making his tournament debut as a professional.
Lautee mastered the firm conditions of the Murray Downs layout to perfect on Tuesday, firing nine birdies in a round of eight-under 64 to lead WA PGA champion Jay Mackenzie (66) by two with Corowa Golf Club Director of Golf James Gordon a shot further back, tied for third at five-under with Deyen Lawson, Tom Power Horan and Josh Armstrong.
Lautee turned professional after finishing tied 29th at Final Stage of ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australian Qualifying School at Moonah Links in July.
Last week he missed advancing to Second Stage of DP World Tour Q School by just two strokes but left that disappointment behind and took his good form with him to Murray Downs.
The 2019 Victorian Amateur champion and 2020 Australian Amateur Strokeplay champion begin his pro debut with three straight birdies from the 10th tee, his only bogey for the day coming at the 169-metre par-3 15th.
He responded with birdies at 16 and 17 to turn in four-under, picking up further shots at one, four, seven and nine to make a stunning start to his professional career.
“It was awesome. It’s great just to be playing as a pro let alone have such a good score,” said Lautee.
“It’s awesome to be out here.”
Tied for 17th in the same event 12 months ago, Lautee has been a regular visitor to the Murray River throughout his amateur days, calling on that experience to get the best out of the course in Round 1.
“I’ve come back here probably four or five times now, I love it up here,” added the Kingston Heath member.
“It’s tricky. It’s quite firm. The fairways are firm, greens are nice. Some of the pins out there today were a bit tricky but the course was great.
“Just trying to keep it on the fairways around here, that’s the key. If you do that you’ll have a few opportunities to make birdies.”
Fresh from securing their spots at Second Stage of DP World Tour Q School James Marchesani and John Lyras are in a tie for seventh with David Bransdon and defending champion Matt Millar at four-under, two-time European Legends Tour winner Richard Green in the group with David Micheluzzi, Andrew Martin and Edward Donoghue at three-under.
The second and final round begins at 7.15am AEST on Wednesday with the group of Lautee, Mackenzie and Gordon to tee off at 12.10pm.