The Japanese national women’s team might have assumed authority with the top four players on the leaderboard, but The Australian Golf Club’s Annika Rathbone is still in mix after a fascinating second round at the women’s Australian Amateur.
Coached by Australian Gareth Jones, the Japanese women are respected worldwide, and with good reason.
The leaderboard is headed by Yuna Araki, 17, the world’s No. 11 player who won the Australian Master Of The Amateurs in Melbourne just last week, and Mamika Shinchi, 15, who was runner-up to Araki in the same event.
Today at St Michael’s in perfect conditions they both shot 4-under par 69s, with Araki giving back a shot from the scrub left of the fairway on the par-4 18thto drop into a share of the lead at 8-under overall.
World No. 3 ranked Saki Baba (7-under) is only a shot back, and Mizuki Hashimoto is also in the mix at 6-under as the flag of the rising sun dominates.
Scoring was remarkably low at both venues in the beautiful conditions today; two women, Rachel Lee (Avondale) and Finland’s Katri Bakker both carded 68s, 6-under par at New South Wales, to log a new course record jointly.
Over at St Michael’s, Araki made five birdies in a row on the front nine, which is nothing. Last week in Melbourne she had one run of six in a row. Both the leaders said they could be friends as well as rivals on the course.
Sydney’s Annika Rathbone, 19, who played alongside Araki and Shinchi is the leading Aussie and on a day where her more fancied playing partners showed their talent, she did herself proud. At five-under after a 72 today that was highlighted by a chip-in for birdie at the last, Rathbone is just three shots from the lead.
A bit of rarity in elite amateur golf, Rathbone, who plays out of The Australian and who has been on three consecutive major pennant-winning teams for the club, works as an apprentice electrician with NSW State Rail.
Today she began with a bogey but five birdies helped improve her score.
“I’m feeling very confident with my game,” she said later. “A few more putts to drop in this week would be great.”
The Sydney amateur, who hails from nearby Bardon Ridge, enjoyed playing alongside Araki and Shinchi on the first two days. “They’re definitely 20 metres in front of me with the driver, they’re hitting shorter irons in, but again stick to my game plan, and you can learn a lot from it. I mean, their putting is phenomenal. You think ‘I’ve had like 29 putts for a round but they’re doing 26-27. It’s impressive to watch and their program is just awesome.”
She said she would sleep soundly tonight. “I work, so I’m always in bed early. A hundred percent, but deep breaths on the first tee, for sure.”
The other Australians who are in contention are Queenslander Justice Bosio and New South Wales’ Clair Shin, who are tied-seventh at four-under par overall.
Bosio, last year’s runner-up, shot two-under today at New South Wales.
“I struck the ball really good but the putter went cold after the seventh hole,” she said. “I had an eagle (at 7), so I was pretty fired up but none of the putts went.”
Bosio could not contain her emotions about the next two days, with high stakes on the line. “I’m excited. We’ll see what the scores are and see how far back I am, but hopefully there’s a low one out there.”
The final two rounds on Thursday and Friday will be played at New South Wales, with the leaders teeing off around lunchtime on Thursday.