It was a minor miracle any golf was played on day one of the 2023 Sandbelt Invitational at Victoria Golf Club after the deluge of rain that hit the Melbourne Sandbelt in the early hours of Monday morning.
A delay of the tee times by more than three hours and some brilliant work from the staff at Victoria saw play get underway, however, with young Aussie pro Jack Thompson and amateur Jazy Roberts atop the leaderboard at the conclusion of play.
Out in one of the first groups of the day, Roberts showed no signs of nerves playing the mixed event that sees pros and amateurs, men and women competing side-by-side, with former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy as host.
The Bendigo product made a birdie down the first to get underway almost perfectly, with Roberts eventually signing for a 5-under 67, a score to par Thompson would match in one of the last groups off the 10th tee.
‘“I thought why not,” Roberts said of taking driver at the short par-4 opening hole.
“Obviously there is some bunker trouble down there, but you can still get up and down for birdie anyway.”
Finding the front of the putting surface before two-putting, Roberts added three more birdies in her front nine, with a lone bogey on the back countered by two more shots against par.
“I think I was pretty relaxed. I played the Australian Open a few weeks ago and slowly getting used to it … being around the pros,” she said of what some might consider a surprising lead amongst the likes of Ogilvy, Nicolas Colsaerts, Cameron Davis and more.
“Obviously this is a really exciting concept that I really enjoy playing.”
Thompson was similarly enjoying the concept, and a softer Victoria Golf Club than he is used to facing following the rain.
“A bit of everything really, just took advantage of obviously the course being pretty soft, after the rain,” Thompson said when asked to sum up his day.
“I’ve played here and it’s so firm and some of those pins you can’t get to because they are so tucked. I just took advantage of the soft conditions I guess.”
Take advantage he did, with the South Australian making eagle on the short par-4 15th before closing his opening nine with a birdie at the 18th.
Another birdie was to follow at the 1st as he made his way for the clubhouse suggesting he would continue to pass the likes of Connor McKinney, Matthew Griffin and Daniel Gale on 4-under, and perhaps even pass Roberts.
However, bogeys would come at the 4th and 8th against three more birdies, leaving Thompson content with a 65.
“Nothing really changes. I am still just going to play golf,” he said of his strategy for the coming days when the tournament heads to the Peninsula Kingswood, Yarra Yarra and Royal Melbourne.
“A few times on the Asian Tour this year I was up there, but it would be nice just play the next few rounds with that and learn from that. But I won’t do anything different, I’ll just play it as it is and see where that gets me.”
Where it got him on day one was a tie for the overall lead and men’s professional mark by one over Griffin, Gale and McKinney.
Roberts is the top women’s amateur by three from Ann Jang, while new LPGA member Robyn Choi leads the female pros on 2-under and Max Moring sits atop the men’s amateur on 3-under, one clear of Quinn Croker and Queensland PGA champion Phoenix Campbell.