Barnes takes early lead at NZPGA

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2009 NZ PGA Championship | Round One | 05 Mar 2009

The New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater Resort in Christchurch is underway in weather conducive to good scoring and for many out in the morning field they have taken full advantage of the overcast and still conditions.

The leaderboard reflects the opportunity provided to those with an early draw and at the end of morning play it was Kurt Barnes who led the way with a stunning opening round of 64. While Barnes has hardly featured on leaderboards in events of late it was not necessarily a surprise to him. “I missed the cut last week at Moonah but I knew I was not playing as badly as that. I have been hitting the ball too well for things not to turn around.”

“To be honest I don’t think I could have shot any worse today just for the simple fact that my ball striking was unbelievable. Every line we picked I hit it right on line bar a couple of loose ones.”

One of those was the second to the par five 14th but it still led to an eagle despite a poor approach.

Barnes raced to the turn in 31 added another birdie at the par five 10th but the highlight of the day came at the par five 14th. The eagle there came courtesy of a holed trap shot at the par which he described as the highlight of the day.

“Whenever you hole a trap shot downhill and right to left you always take them and run. It came out perfect and just went right in the right edge.”

For whatever talent is worth, Barnes remains as one of Australia’s most naturally gifted players. The Australian Amateur champion in 2002, Barnes’ career has been a roller coaster. He has won two Von Nida Tour events and led events such as the Australian Masters after 54 holes but has been unable for a range of reasons, many of them personal, to get his game to the next level.

Barnes now plays with the realisation that talent can get you only so far. “I played a lot of amateur golf with guys who are now on the USPGA Tour and I realise now how hard they worked and how hard I didn’t work.” Barnes pointed out one of his amateur golf friends James Nitties as a motivation for a return to form. “Just to see how hard James works and where he is now has made me realise what I need to do.”

“My coach Christian Small also made me realise that I have to stick to a practice and training schedule and if I don’t abide by them well then there is no point in him helping me out. I have stuck by it over the last six months and it is now starting to pay dividends.”

“I deliberately did not play the Johnnie Walker Classic in order to prepare myself for these three Nationwide Tour events.”

Barnes also paid credit to another coach, this time a previous coach, Simon Deep, who he called after missing the cut at Moonah.

“I changed putters after last week and called Simon Deep and old swing coach who told me what he thought I needed to do to get back on track with my short game. It was an 8 minute phone call but one that I should have made months ago.”

Barnes led the morning field by three shots over Victorian Alistair Presnell and Americans Jonas Blixt, Jason Enloe and Major Manning

Alistair Presnell followed up his stunning and surprise victory at last week’s Moonah Classic with an opening round of 67 to be at 5 under along with American Josh Teater who is making up for the disappointment of a late stumble at PGA Tour School with a solid start to his Nationwide Tour season.

Teater dropped seven shots in his last four holes at the PGA Tour School in California to cost himself any chance of gaining one of the 25 cards handed out there but has made the cut at each of the first two Nationwide Tour events of the season and actually contended early at last week’s Moonah Classic.

Blixt is in his rookie season as a professional after gaining Nationwide Tour status at last year’s PGA Tour School while Manning too is in his rookie season on the Nationwide Tour after winning on the Hooters’ Tour in 2008.

American Jason Enloe has played the Nationwide Tour for several seasons and has one victory behind him that coming in 2006.

For Presnell it continues a dream run. He finished 5th at the recent Victorian PGA Championship following a brilliant last round of 65, made the cut at the Johnnie Walker Classic and then produced the best round of the final day at the Moonah Classic last week to give him his most significant victory in golf. Now with Nationwide Tour status he is enjoying playing with the knowledge of status on the Nationwide Tour.

“I was going to go over and try and Monday qualify for Nationwide Tour events in any case but not having to worry about that is great.”

Presnell missed only two greens in his round and is clearly playing with the confidence that a win of such significance brings. His victory last week has brought numerous congratulations including one form the Accenture Match Play Champion, Geoff Ogilvy. “I was delighted to get it and sent him one back saying his win wasn’t too bad either,” added Presnell, tongue in cheek.

Pre tournament favourite Danny Lee recovered from a slow start for a round of 71 but he missed a great opportunity in the perfect early conditions.


Position Score Player Country R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
1   ↑T2 -15 Steven Alker New Zealand 69 70 67 67 273
T2   ↑T4 -13 David Smail New Zealand 68 71 68 68 275
T2   ↑T9 -13 Josh Geary New Zealand 72 65 71 67 275
T4   ↑T14 -12 Henrik Bjornstad Norway 71 70 68 67 276
T4   ↑T14 -12 Michael Sim Australia 71 66 72 67 276
T4 -12 Ryan Hietala United States 71 67 69 69 276
T7   ↓T4 -11 Danny Lee New Zealand 71 67 69 70 277
T7   ↑T14 -11 Gavin Coles Australia 70 68 71 68 277
T7   ↑T9 -11 Jason Norris Australia 73 65 70 69 277
T7   ↑T22 -11 Josh Teater United States 67 68 75 67 277
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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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