Just weeks after going toe-to-toe with the world’s best on the PGA TOUR, Daniel Gale posted 6-under 65 to lead after day one of the Tailor-Made Building Services NT PGA Championship.
Starting on the back nine at Palmerston Golf and Country Club, the New South Welshman got into his work early with a first birdie of the day at the 11th, followed immediately by his first bogey. That dropped shot at the par-4 12th was his last on Thursday, with Gale accumulating three more birdies on the back nine to turn in 3-under 32.
Three birdies against six pars meant it was the same score to par for the front nine, his second nine. Gale was then largely unchallenged at the top of the leaderboard having been one of the early players out on course, until Victoria’s Andrew Kelly closed with birdies at the eighth and ninth holes having started on the back nine to sit alone in second on 5-under.
Kelly’s 66 included a run of four birdies in a row starting at the 18th, and a second nine with just three pars on the card to draw within one of Gale.
Late on Thursday, Matt Stieger sat alongside Kelly, the New South Welshman going bogey-free through 15 holes before his first dropped shot of the day moved him back to the group at 4-under, two back of Gale.
The remainder of that group had some interesting journeys to get to 4-under, with Victorian Jake Hughes going bogey-free, amateur Quinnton Crocker mixing a seven at the par-4 17th into his round while it was more standard stuff for Queensland veteran Michael Wright, big hitting Lincoln Tighe and Chris Crabtree who already had plenty to smile about after claiming the Wednesday night 100-metre shootout and $2,000.
A large group is then another shot in arrears at 3-under, including 2020 runner-up in Michael Sim, while defending champion Austin Bautista opened with a solid 2-under round of 69 having rapped on local Darwin radio about his victory here on Wednesday morning.
But for now, they are all chasing Gale, who has a habit of going much lower than his Thursday 65, perhaps an ominous warning for the chasing pack.
When teeing it up at the Monday qualifier for the 3M Open, Gale holed out for an eagle at the last to shoot 60 in late July and is a perennial contender on the PGA Tour of Australasia thanks to his ability to make plenty of birdies.
A one-time winner on his home circuit, back in his rookie season at the 2018 PNG Open, Gale could hardly have made a better start to his chase for a second win.
Photo: Taylah Somerville Photography