Jenny Shin got something of a surprise when she arrived back in Australia for the Webex Players Series Sydney, however, neither she nor co-leader Josh Armstrong were shocked by their matching nine-under 63s on the opening day.
A winner on the LPGA Tour, Shin was in Australia for an extended holiday following the Australian Open before returning to America then coming back for what she thought was only a WPGA Tour of Australasia event.
“I didn’t even know it was a mixed event, and I didn’t even know I was playing against the men until I got here on Tuesday,” Shin said.
“My mindset went from it’s going to be fairly easy, to whoa, it’s actually going to be very difficult, I have to really focus.”
Focus she did, as the U.S. based Korean started with a birdie on the 10th, her first hole of the day.
Shin eventually signing for a bogey-free, nine-birdie round at Castle Hill Country Club, with playing partner Jake McLeod noting how easily Shin went about the score, so too tournament host Braith Anasta caddying for McLeod.
On the same side of the draw, Armstrong’s 63 featured more variation, with the long hitting New South Welshman making nine birdies, one eagle and two bogeys, including at the 9th, his final hole to fall back into a tie with Shin.
“To be fair, yes,” Armstrong said when asked if this sort of score was on the radar.
“Last week I had a bit of stomach bug, which didn’t help. But overall, the game’s feeling really good, I just haven’t really knocked on the door that much, so patience is a virtue I guess.”
Patience was also the name of the game for Kazuma Kobori.
The Kiwi sitting in a share of third on seven-under with compatriot Kerry Mountcastle after what could only be described as a tale of two nines.
Playing alongside Castle Hill’s own Daniel Gale and surround by a following of Gale’s fellow members, Kobori started his day with a double bogey, before turning in one-over on the course’s back nine. A nine holes where Gale recorded a four-under 32 that included two eagles and a triple bogey seven.
Kobori birdied the 1st to get back to even par, then closed his opening round with seven straight birdies, a feat the two-time Webex Players Series winner isn’t sure he has ever matched.
“I was pretty miserable, like great course, playing with Galey is always pretty fun, and I was like ‘You know what, let’s try a bit less, like 10 percent less, and have fun out there’,” Kobori said.
One back of Kobori and Mountcastle on six-under are four players, all of whom are playing with new feelings that helped their cause.
Jeffrey Guan and Andre Lautee put new drivers in play over the past week, while Brady Watt has a new putter and Jarryd Felton believes his wedding earlier this year to major champion Hannah Green has helped rediscover form.
“Maybe I got some of her golfing ability,” Felton joked. “But no, obviously the wedding was a few weeks ago now, it was an unbelievable day.
“It’s been really good, bit of weight of our shoulders for both of us, just kind of go with the flow.”
Behind Felton and Kobori sit 12 players on five-under, including Gale and the evergreen Peter Lonard who found some joy after adding loft to his driver on Wednesday afternoon to find more fairways.
The bunched group at five-under and large group another shot adrift with plenty of ground to make up on the leading pair, with Armstrong a potentially dangerous competitor as he continues to learn the ropes of professional golf.
“It’s very easy to think, ‘Why am I not in that position’. But at the same time, you kind of just keep doing your own thing. And I think I am starting to finally understand that, but I don’t know if I have fully got it yet,” Armstrong said.
Shin also a threatening front runner as a winner on the premier women’s Tour in the world, in a country she enjoys, with boyfriend Zoot Sanders-Vaughan playing caddie this week and likely with significantly less nerves due to the format come Friday’s second round.
“1st hole my adrenaline was pumping, I was almost shaking. I just have played tournament golf in like two months. My adrenaline was through the roof, I was very nervous, I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the boys,” Shin said.