HAYES: No Coincidence to See who’s leading here at Walcha

Put it down to good karma, astrology, Zen thinking, clean living or even the correct alignment of one’s tea leaves.

But it’s no coincidence that the top end of the leaderboard at the inaugural women’s World Sand Greens Championship each have amazing outlooks on being at Walcha this week.

And they might even have the golfing gods smiling on their happy disposition.

Elmay Viking will start the final round with a two-shot buffer that she was only too ready to confess might never have happened bar a chance encounter earlier this week.

The Cook Islands ace was not originally in the pro-am field, but as fate would have it, not only did she receive a last-minute call-up, but was paired with some Walcha members, including superintendent Mark Hogan.

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Elmay VIking rolled in five birdies in her 67

Hogan gave sand greens rookie Viking a few tips on smoothing and raking, then a couple of tips on how to best conquer the challenges of short shots into greens.

Hogan explained that instead of just mindlessly raking, she’d be well served by thinking of something she wanted smoothed completely out.

“I was like, `Pancake?’, and he just said, `Yeah, flatten it like a pancake’,” she recalled with a grin.

“So that’s what I did. Just try go low and flatten (the sand) instead of standing tall and just walking through because it will leave a bit of a bumpy roll … and it worked out

really well.”

Throw in a sunny, smiling disposition that seems permanently attached to Viking and good things most certainly happened – and to the hypnotic tune of a course record 68.

Her nearest rival on the leaderboard is another quietly spoken woman who is equally as thrilled to be enjoying the nuances of the Walcha “scrapes”.

Kiwi Wenyung Keh is being billeted – along with her two sisters – at a farm in the nearby New England high country.

As it turns out, her host is Craig Morgan – a golfer of some repute around Walcha – who was excited to caddie for Keh.

Not unlike Viking, whose “smooth” game is already strong, Keh feels she has a “secret weapon” around the greens because Morgan has assumed her “rake” duties and left her with silkier putts than many of her fellow sand green novices.

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Keh, too, is having a week of broad smiles.

“I think it’s very different to grass greens and it feels a lot less serious, even though it’s an important tournament,” she said.

“But for me, it’s not so much about good or bad golf, it’s more of an experience … and I’m really enjoying it.

“You find yourself smiling and happy when you chip and it’s 6-8 ft from hole and you become content with that rather than always wanting to chip it super close. I really like that feeling.”

Similar stories abound in the other groups with the “late” tee times tomorrow.

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Sarah Yamaki Branch celebrates after holing out for eagle on the par five 15th

Livewire Queenslander Sarah Yamaki Branch made a bold run midway through the back nine, capped by a stunning eagle putt on the par-5 15th hole.

The celebration looked like an audition for a well-known Japanese car brand; the joy unbridled and audible to many around the course.

Last week’s joint Australian Women’s Classic winner Jess Whitting could easily have thrown the toys out of the cot when she flared a drive into the sheep from the seventh tee.

But she shrugged her shoulders, reloaded, “birdied” her second ball for a bogey five and pressed on to another smile-filled 72 to put her in the second-last group.

It’s just that week at Walcha.

If you’re mentally able to let the bad bounces just wash away as if they never happened, you’re halfway home.

If you “whistle while you work”, as the seven dwarves once sang, you’re every chance to be the princess when the music stops tomorrow.

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