Andrew Kirkman leads by a solitary shot after the opening round of the 2023 NSW Country Championship at South West Rocks Country Club.
The Kempsey locals kept calm on a brutal day where strong winds and lightning-fast greens humbled more than a few pre-tournament favourites.
The Links Shell Cove’s Nathan Whiteman leads the chasers at plus-one following a well-controlled round, while Josh Fuller from The Vintage, who was sitting on top of the leaderboard for most of the day, is another shot back at two over.
Four players are at three over: Freshly crowned Jack Newton Junior International champion, Riley Millers, Goulburn’s Dominic Falk, Bowen Small of Maitland, and Luke Waters, like Fuller, also from The Vintage.
Rounding out the top ten at four over are Thomas Holz from The Links Shell Cove, Lachlan Jones of Dubbo and Josh Thomas of Blackheath.
Kirkman, though, fared better than the rest. Starting on the 11th, he was into red figures early with a birdie in the 12th, but bogies on the 13th, 14th, and 16th seemed to have damaged any chance of a run at the lead.
While the lead chopped and changed several times, birdies on the 3rd & 9th for the Kempsey gun got his round back on an even keel.
On a day about as good as it could get for golf, the course was the clear winner, with several players left with plenty of work left in front of them.
2021 Champ Harry Bolton, fresh from representing Australia at the Asia-PAcific Amateur Championship two weeks ago at Royal Melbourne, is sitting at five over, while Toronto’s Jake Riley, a teammate of Bolton’s at the Asia Pacific, is at plus seven.
In the keenly sought-after inter-district teams championship, Illawarra holds a one-shot lead over defending Teams Champion, Newcastle, with the Hunter River another two back in third.
Leading the way for Illawarra are Whiteman (73), alongside his Links Shell Cove Teammate Thomas Holz (76), with Ethan Harvey and Mark Johnston both carding 81s for a combined score of 311.