Veteran Brett Rumford and prolific pro-am winner Braden Becker have defied seven months of tournament rust to share a three-stroke lead after posting scores of 7-under 65 in the opening round of the TX Civil & Logistics WA PGA Championship at Kalgoorlie Golf Course.
A 54-hole tournament for the West Australian contingent only, the 2020 championship commenced on the back of the announcement that Kalgoorlie would remain the home of the WA PGA for at least the next three years.
It is a venue where Rumford tasted success five years ago and where Becker contended in 2018 and the pair have given themselves a handy buffer from 2019 runner-up Jarryd Felton (68) with a further two strokes to Daniel Fox, Ben Ferguson and Cooper Geddes.
Fluctuating winds made club selection challenging across the desert layout and both Rumford and Becker picked up shots late in their round with clever shots from Kalgoorlie’s distinctive red dirt.
Rumford played an exquisite pitch shot from 93 metres to tap-in range at the par-4 ninth while Becker’s sixth birdie of the day came in similar fashion at his final hole, the par-5 second.
“I hit a nice 54-degree wedge out of the desert from 93 metres to the last. How it didn’t go in I don’t know,” Rumford said post-round.
“That finished off the day nicely. The only thing that will taste nicer is the burger I’ve ordered for dinner.”
“It’s something different. We don’t do it anywhere else,” added Becker, whose pitch shot from behind the second green also finished within tap-in range.
“You’ve got to read the lie as to whether it’s firm underneath or if it’s a bit dusty. If it’s dusty the club tends to stall but on the hard stuff it bounces.
“You’ve really got to read your lie which if you can do it, you can get away with it and be reliable on it.”
Making just his second appearance since his two-stroke win at Kalgoorlie in 2015, Rumford said that contending with the desert winds was just as difficult as the unusual terrain found off the fairways.
“The wind made it really tricky today,” he said.
“The strength was one aspect but the winds were turning constantly at least 90 degrees.
“That’s how it was playing from the seventh hole onwards. It was just really, really variable.
“Which is bizarre because we’re in the middle of the desert. What’s the wind buffeting off?
“It definitely adds to the trickery of the golf course.
“It had me literally guessing all day. I was just lucky that I hit the right shots at the right time.”
Becker’s lone bogey of the round came from just 50 metres out at the par-4 10th but he credited the “brain fade” for instigating a run of four birdies and an eagle in his final nine holes.
“I had a bit of a mishap in the middle but it was a good wake-up call to put my head down and make sure I wasn’t losing concentration,” said Becker, who was tied for 15th in this event two years ago.
“I hit a good tee shot and had a 50-metre pitch to the front flag and came out of it. I just hit a bad shot, rushed up, tried to hit it close while my playing partner Hayden Hopewell was getting a ruling so it was just a really soft bogey from 50 out.”
With five birdies and a single bogey at the par-3 13th hole it was a promising start also for Felton who has never finished worse than 10th in six previous appearances at Kalgoorlie.
“I’ve got really good vibes from this golf course and it’s just nice to be out of the pro shop and playing golf again,” said Felton, who has been spending the tournament hiatus working in the pro shop at Gosnells Golf Club.
“Very happy with 4-under because the wind picked up and from the complete opposite way so it threw all the preparation out the window.
“I just played pretty solid all day. I think I missed one green and holed a couple of nice putts so it was just steady for me.”
As a six-time winner on the European Tour Rumford is far and away the most accomplished player in the field but couldn’t help trying to snare the underdog tag heading into Round 2, citing his transition from tour life into that of an accredited PGA Professional at Wembley Golf Complex.
“This is my first event as a PGA Trainee,” said Rumford, who has been teaching at Wembley on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I’m representing the Vocational Professionals and Trainees of Australia to stick it to these touring pros this week.
“That’s my No.1 goal. That’s my motivation.”
Round two of the TX Civil & Logistics WA PGA Championship begins at 10am AWST.
Round 1 leading scores
65: Brett Rumford, Braden Becker
68: Jarryd Felton
70: Daniel Fox, Ben Ferguson, Cooper Geddes
71: Scott Strange, Darren Garrett, Michael Hanrahan-Smith (a), Jose De Sousa (a), Daniel Hoeve