The sun is out, the guns are out, but it’s a 17-year-old amateur who is the talking point of the morning starters in the first round of the Play Today NSW Open at Rich River GC.
In 2019, Newcastle schoolboy Jake Riley made headlines after earning his spot the NSW Open as a 14-year-old. He wasn’t even the youngest, that record belongs to fellow Blake Windred who grabbed a spot aged 12.
Fast forward four years and Riley, who is still in high school, is playing in the Open, only this time he has brought his A-game shooting a six-birdie round of 66 to be one back of leaders Ryan Chisnall (-6) and Victorian Peter Wilson (-6).
“I didn’t do much wrong today, only the one bogey and I just kept it in play all day. It was pretty stress-free,” he said.
“I Monday qualified for the Open when I was 14. Getting back here now I feel my game is much better and I was looking forward to seeing how I could go against the pros and it’s been a good start.”
Stay tuned for updates from the afternoon starters.
1.20pm: Ryan’s tryin: eight birdies in opening round blitz
Golf is a week-to-week proposition for touring professionals, especially in the mind. The logical mind says “get a job” whilst the ego says “we’ve got this”.
“Max Homa said it the other day. You’re one great swing away from winning the Masters, and one bad swing away from considering retirement,” said Queensland-based Kiwi Ryan Chisnall, a 28-year-old who finds himself clubhouse leader after an eight-birdie feast on the East Course here at Rich River GC.
Chisnall’s previous five events before the Play Today NSW Open all resulted in missed cuts, which opens the mind up to other careers.
“I’ve been pretty hard on myself. It’s a tough game,” he said.
“Just last week I was talking to my partner about what we’d do, whether I go to Q school, or get a job and do something different.
“I’ve been though the roller coaster like most golfers. But it was nice to get the juices flowing today. I made eight birdies, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. Hopefully it’s something to build on for the rest of the week.”
Veteran Peter Wilson has continued his crazy recent form – the Victorian shot back-to-back 59s at Lang Lang Golf Club last week – with a stellar opening round of five-under 66 which included six birdies. His only bogey of the day came on the short par four 7th.
Matthew Goggin made seven birdies in his opening round, but bogeys on two of the par threes left him one shot back at -5.
Scoring has been excellent on the East Course this morning, despite a tricky westerly wind whipping up earlier. The wind has been helpful on the back nine, straight downwind on the Party Hole, the 144m 16th, and the driveable 17th.
Stay tuned for more updates as the afternoon rounds get underway.
1.40 pm: New Coach just the Tonic for Revitalised Wharton
Golf Australia’s Martin Blake reports..
Victorian pro Ben Wharton credited his move to a new coach with his opening 65, 6-under, which tied the early lead held by Ryan Chisnall at the Play Today NSW Open at Rich River.
Wharton, 35, was coached for his whole career by his late father. But after poor form he recently began working with his friend Joel Ward at Eynsbury, outside Melbourne.
Having studied psychology at university he has switched to a more physical-focused approach.
“He (Ward) has helped me a lot, got my swing back on plane as such, and not hitting it sideways.
“To be honest I read a lot of psychology books and I tried to play golf with my brain instead of my body, as such. Which works to a capacity, but under the extreme pressures, if your swing fails or you have a flaw, it makes it difficult to hit good shots when there’s 1000 people watching or you’re vying for a trophy.”
Wharton had six birdies and went bogey-free. “My game’s been rusty and no good of late,” he said. “It’s nice to get it back and some form going. The driver was kind of on a string today.”
12.00pm: Chisnall leads log jammed leaderboard
More than 40 players are at -1 or better as the Play Today NSW Open reaches the halfway point of the morning rounds.
Despite a tricky westerly wind whipping across the course, Kiwi Ryan Chisnall is the man to catch, sitting at five under late in his round. Five players are at four under including Jake Higginbottom, Peter Lonard, Matthew Goggin, Ben Wharton and 2015 Champ, Ben Eccles.
Early leader Louis Dobbelaar has made a disastrous start to his back nine, with double bogeys on the 1st and 3rd holes to tumble down the leaderboard.
Veteran Peter Wilson has carried his great form of last week where he shot back-to-back 59s at the Lang Lang Golf Course – he is currently three-under through the 12 holes
Last year’s Victorian Open winner Dimi Papadatos has also made a solid start, birdieing his opening two holes (starting from the 10th), before a bogey on the difficult 12th. Birdies on 17 and 18 have him at three under with the front nine to come
Stay tuned for more updates.
10.20 am: Carruthers, Dobbelaar take early lead
2022 NSW Junior Champion Coby Carruthers and freshly minted NZPGA Champ Louis Dobbelar share the early lead here at Rich River with all of the morning players now on course.
The Concord golf club young gun has got off to a flyer with birdies on his opening three holes to join last week’s NZPGA champ dobbelaar at minus three.
Dobbelaar is doubling down last week’s stellar form and is out to a one-shot lead early on the opening day of the PLAY TODAY NSW Open here at Rich River.
The Queenslander birdied his opening three holes in a ripping start, then promptly dropped a shot on the 4th.
A joy to watch @louisdobbelaar at #RichRiver this morning. He’s -3 through 6 with four early birdies – including this on 14 after a great approach – at @NSWOpen pic.twitter.com/wtOmf6a8uy— Mark Hayes (@Hayesy24) March 15, 2023
Clearly unphased, he converted a chance on the 14th ( his fifth hole of the day) to get back to three under par.
There are several other names of note making their presence felt with eight players at minus two, including 2004 NSW Open Champ Peter Lonard, Zinyo Garcia, Jake Higginbottom, David Micheluzzi, Brad Kennedy, Michael Henry, Shae Wools-Cobb, and Matthias Sanchez.
8.59am: The Great Golf Ball Roll Back Debate
Roving reporter Roy Fleming has caught up with several players and a few of the game’s stakeholders here at Rich River to gauge their views on the proposed changes to the Golf Ball from 2026.
Read their view HERE: THE GREAT GOLF BALL ROLL BACK DEBATE
7.45am: PLAY TODAY Let’s GO!
The opening round of the Play Today NSW Open is underway at Rich River Golf Club in the heart of the Murray River region.
The golfing gods have delivered perfect conditions for day one, with Rich River’s famed old course firm and fast and only likely to get quicker with warm weather forecast for most of the event.
Pumped to be at @GolfNSW Open at the spectacular #RichRiver. Out with marquee morning group and defending champ @HarrisonCrowe who starts with a birdie. Partners @DavidMicheluzzi and @louisdobbelaar follow suit. Game on!! pic.twitter.com/e7MBwoxQ9i— Mark Hayes (@Hayesy24) March 15, 2023
Rich River boasts a pair of beautiful courses in a resort setting and is among the most popular destination golf resorts in Australia.
We have a stacked field and plenty of room for spectators to come down and enjoy the talents of Australia’s best young players and seasoned veterans.
Please follow us throughout the day with our rolling coverage, and stay tuned on social media where we will be providing updates
It’s Thursday at the PLAY TODAY NSW Open at Rich River Golf Resort.