A teenage prodigy, a Mandurah local and trio of in-form New South Welshmen are tied for the lead after the first round of the WA Open at Royal Fremantle on Thursday.
Jeffrey Guan, a 17-year-old amateur from Sydney, briefly held the outright lead before a late bogey gave him a six-under total, along with NSW’s Dimi Papadatos, Nathan Barbieri, Austin Bautista and WA’s Braden Becker.
Guan, who is in Year 12 at high school, claimed his second straight Australian junior title three weeks ago in Adelaide and continued his hot streak in windy afternoon conditions.
“I putted pretty solid. Most of my birdies were from 20, 25 feet after a couple of tap-ins at my first two holes,” Guan said.
“It’s really good for me to play with the pros.
“Hopefully I come out here and shoot a low number tomorrow.”
A mid-morning rain storm briefly halted play but it didn’t put a dampener on Mandurah’s Becker, who was bogey free through his morning round. It was a fast start for the 29-year-old, who won the three-round Eynesbury Masters in Melbourne last month.
“It was a good day. The course was soft but the greens are quite tricky,” he said.
“With the rain, it was really important for me to know what height to bring the ball in.
“On a couple of the greens if the ball came in on a lower trajectory it skidded, if it was too high it plugged.
“I holed a nice putt on 17 from 30 feet for birdie and holed a little putt off the green for birdie on 16, which was probably the hardest hole on the course.”
After spending the past three months on the road, Becker is enjoying the chance to play at home this week.
“My girlfriend Hayley came out for the first five holes before she had to go to work and a bunch of people came up from Mandurah.”
Bautista was happy to shrug off the disappointment of finishing runner-up in Kalgoorlie last week with a share of the lead.
“My game’s really solid. I’m happy with the way I’m playing,” he said. “New week, new challenge, get a win.”
Friday’s second round begins at 7.10am.