February 6, 2023

Stoic Bennett Still In Touch In The Land Of Smiles

The early part of the third round at the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific must have felt like a casual Saturday round at home club St Michael’s for Kelsey Bennett.

An overcast and slightly cooler day near Pattaya in Thailand yielded three birdies in the opening six holes, with opportunities for more going begging as Bennett put herself in contention for the tournament after starting the day at five-under-par.

That casual Saturday feel came to a sudden halt, though, when the 22-year-old reached the par-5 8th hole.

A drive slightly right of the target bounced into the right rough and left a partially obscured view of the green courtesy of some mangroves by the water’s edge.

Playing safe towards the left fairway bunkers with her lay-up, Bennett got a flyer with her 6-iron that came out hot and took a detour via the cart path and into thick vegetation.

“I got really unlucky with that shot from the right rough, just jumped and went straight rather than cut. There’s nothing you can do there,” Bennett said.

After fears of a lost ball, her ball was eventually discovered. An unplayable lie drop was her only option, then a 9-iron short of the green, poor chip and three putts later, the ball was in the hole for a triple bogey eigh, dropping her back to five-under for the tournament.

As she has done all week, Bennett returned to her “processes” on the next tee to put the disappointment behind her and get back to climbing the leaderboard.

“Just going back to the processes, deep breaths and slowing down, don’t let it get worse than it already was,” she said.

The 2021 runner-up at this event achieved that.

Bennett parred her way to the 18th, with birdie putts lipping out regularly, including a long effort at the 9th that was “hunting” and thankfully hit the flag and a shorter try at the par-3 16th.

“I had plenty of opportunities on the back nine, but again nothing went in. So just keep doing my process,” Bennett said again, returning to her procedural refrain.

Hitting a perfect 3-wood for her second at the 18th, Bennett had an opportunity to avoid a back-to-back round of even par 72 and put her closer to the four players tied at the top of the leaderboard.

The mark she herself was on before the forgettable triple.

But a slightly aggressive chip meant it was a tap-in par for a five-under total that is certainly not out of the running for victory and spots at the AIG Women’s Open, Amundi Evian Championship and Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

“Three is nothing really, so hopefully we can pull out a good one tomorrow,” she said as she prepared to head to Siam Country Club’s putting green to find a solution to the cold putter that if it catches fire could deliver a second major amateur title to NSW in as many weeks.