Backing up a stellar tournament is a hard thing to do. Just ask early Taranaki Open pace-setter Daniel Hillier. Or the ominously lurking Luke Toomey for that matter.
For a good portion of the reset first round of the weather-shortened Jennian Homes Charles Tour event on Friday, Toomey looked to have picked up where he left off last week when he carded four sub-70 rounds including a ridiculous 61 en-route to a remarkable Carrus Open title defence.
Capitalising on relatively benign conditions at New Plymouth Golf Club, Toomey went on a front nine tear, scorching to six-under through his opening seven holes. But this is golf and golf is hard as the 27-year-old was soon reminded, his giddy bolt out of the gate stalled by a bogey-double bogey combo on 12 and 13.
To his credit, Toomey did strike back immediately with a birdie two on Ngamotu’s 14th hole and added another gain on the par-5 last to sign for a five-under 67. It left the Tauranga touring professional tied for 4th alongside Marton’s Lachie McDonald and just two strokes adrift of leader Hillier who mixed six birdies and an eagle with a solitary bogey in his 65.
It was a heartening day for Hillier who struggled at last week’s Carrus Open a week after capturing the DVS Pegasus Open for his third Charles Tour title. There were encouraging signs in a final round 63 in Tauranga which saw him rocket 24 places up the leaderboard to a T-23 finish.
Hillier was happy to carry that positive Sunday best vibe into Taranaki.
“It was an interesting week last week but I managed to finish off strongly. I tried to take that momentum into this week and it was nice we had some decent conditions for the most part today,” said Hillier who leads by a stroke from James Anstiss and the Woonchul Na.
“I didn’t drive it all that well but managed to miss it in all of the right spots and had a couple of crucial par saves on 12, 13, and 14 which kept the round going.”
Na, meanwhile, was flawless in carding a bogey-free, six-under 66. He’s also carrying some momentum from the Carrus Open where he finished T-2 and was one of the few who didn’t mind playing 13 holes before the scheduled opening round on Thursday was abandoned due to winds gusting to 60kmh.
“I had a stiff neck yesterday and I was struggling off the tee. I wasn’t hitting it very far, but I managed to be even-par through 13 holes in the gusty conditions. It was good to get it moving yesterday,” said Na.
“I managed to go bogey-free today. I hit lots of fairways and greens and managed to make a few putts. Nothing really went wrong.
“I’ve had plenty of second places before and I’m really confident teeing it up this week. I’m just looking forward to getting into it over the next couple of days, I think I’m in with a good chance.”
Momoka Kobori is the leading female, sitting just four shots back and is tied with Sam Vincent as the low amateur.
LEADING 1st Round scores at the 2020 Taranaki Open (October 16):
65: Daniel Hillier (PGA New Zealand)
66: James Anstiss (PGA New Zealand), Woonchul Na (PGA New Zealand)
67: Lachie McDonald (Marton), Luke Toomey (PGA New Zealand)
68: Mark Brown (PGA New Zealand), Kieran Muir (Omokoroa), Josh Geary (PGA New Zealand)
69: Sung Jin Yeo (PGA New Zealand), Chang Gi Lee (PGA New Zealand), Fraser Wilkin (P, PGA New Zealand), Sam Vincent (Riverside), Momoka Kobori (Rangiora), Sam An (Titirangi)
70: Luke Brown (PGA New Zealand), Michael Hendry (PGA New Zealand), Tae Koh (Windross Farm Golf Course), James Hydes (Gulf Harbour Country Club), Kazuma Kobori (Rangiora), Grant Moorhead (PGA New Zealand), Joshua Bai (Akarana)
71: Mason Lee (PGA New Zealand), Matt McLean (Harewood), Inia Logan (Cromwell), Logan Hooper (North Shore), Douglas Singh (Whitford Park), Daniel Pearce (PGA New Zealand), Dongwoo Kang (PGA New Zealand)
72: Laura Hoskin (P), Mako Thompson (Maraenui), Kevin Koong (Muriwai)