Sydneysider Daniel Gale leads the way after the opening round of the South Coast Regional Open at Mollymook Golf Club.
With the wind cruelling more than a few player’s chances, the 26-year-old stayed bogey-free, with four birdies and a highlight-reel eagle on the short par- four 15th on his way to a course record-setting six-under-par 66.
Two shots back of Gale are the NSW trio of Toby Williams, Jay Mackenzie and Lucas Higgins, winner of the Upper Hunter Regional Open at Muswellbrook in September.
Higgins and Mackenzie, like Gale, were caught in the afternoon breeze, while Williams, of St Michael’s, was the best score from the morning half of the draw with his 68.
Sydney’s James Grierson is alone in 5th place, while another pair of Sydneysiders, Jackson Bugdalski and Alexander Simpson, are another shot back in 6th place after carding two-under-par rounds of 70.
Gale, however, is the man they will all have to catch and was particularly pleased with his afternoon’s effort.
“Yeah, it was a good day out,” Gale said post-round. “I had a lot of good par saves out there.
“I had a real good one early on the third hole I was making a mess of when I tried to be aggressive with the driver. It caught the trees and then hit the trees for my second. I chipped it in though, and that got me going.”
Relieved with the vital save, Gale, who admits to being a momentum player, said he could feel the direction of his round shift.
“I birdied the 6th, holed a 30-footer on seven, and a tap-in birdie on the 9th.
“A couple of locals said it actually lipped out for an ace.”
Gale maintained his solid pace on the back nine with three straight pars before rolling in a testing five-footer for birdie on the tricky par-five 13th.
The highlight of Gale’s day was still to come, and when he smoothed an eight-iron into the bottom of the cup on the 15th for an eagle two, the opening round’s low mark was set.
“It was one bounce, I think, then it just rolled perfectly,” he grinned.
Although extremely satisfied with his opening round effort, Gale said the course was demanding, especially with the afternoon breeze playing tricks amongst the tall, heavily wooded fairways.
“You’ve got to shape it both ways here, and be in control of your ball, for sure. The greens are amazing; there are lots of slopes, and you have to miss it in the right spot, or you leave yourself some very creative putts.”
Having already claimed an NSW Regional Open Crown at Dubbo just over twelve months ago, Gale knows what it will take to win. Standing in his way, however, will be a bunch of chasers eager to secure a place in the 2023 PLAY TODAY NSW Open and a Mollymook layout that can bite.
Gale is well aware, also, that it’s not simply a matter of picking a winning score around a course of this calibre but staying in control of his processes and making sure every shot counts.
“There’s no reason why I can’t win.”
“If you try and think of a winning score, you are limiting yourself, so I’m just going to go out there, stick to my game plan and however many birdies I make, I make.
“I know what it’s like to lead one of these and win, so I’m just going out there and doing my thing.”