Hyatt Coolum specialist Nitties leads early
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2006 Australian PGA Championship | Round One | 07 Dec 2006
The Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship is underway under overcast skies and gentle breezes at the Hyatt Regency Coolum Resort with the man who took this tournament by storm in 2004 in just his fourth event as a professional, taking the early lead.
James Nitties finished runner up to Peter Lonard in this event two years ago and gave every indication then that he would quickly go to the next level in his professional career. It hasn’t happened for a range of reasons but clearly, as one of this country’s best amateurs before turning professional, he is a talented individual and showed it again today.
Nitties was out at 7.25am and raced to the turn in 31, a nine that included six birdies. Others were also taking advantage of the good early conditions including the Victorian 25 year old Nigel Stivala who has yet to make a cut on the Australsian Tour but has given himself a chance with an opening 67. Stivala caddied on the Ladies European Tour for two years for the likes of Trish Johnson and the New Zealander Gina Scott and said later that the experience had been of great value in developing his golf game.
Nitties would go on to complete his round in eight under 64 after an inward nine of 33 and as he did so he led by two. Nitties is in need of a good finish here after the roller coaster he has been on the past eighteen months. It has been frustrating for Nitties as he has watched players who he knew he was capable of footing it with making greater progress on the world stage. He has no status on any tour in 2007 and will take his chances over the events in Australia and New Zealand to see what develops.
Several of the pre tournament favourites were also making moves. Nick O’Hern has won just the one tour event in his professional career and it was here in 1999 that the victory came. He has often played well since at Hyatt Regency Coolum and he made the perfect start today when he finished at six under 66 to be in second place outright when he completed his round. The follow up victory is long awaited but if it was to come this week, no-one would be surprised or disappointed.
Jarrod Lyle, a teammate of Nitties at the Eisenhower in Puerto Rico in 2004 and perhaps one of the players Nitties was referring to when he discussed those who had moved ahead of him in their professional careers, has had a brilliant year in 2006 gaining his USPGA Tour card via the Nationwide Tour after starting the year without status on that Tour. His dream year is continuing and today his round of 64 including a homeward nine of 32 had him in joint second place as he completed his opening round.
Others at five under were the American Eric Egloff, another winner at Hyatt Regency Coolum in Stuart Appleby and Rod Pampling who finished runner up to Peter Senior in this event in 2003.
The Hyatt Coolum form was again emerging as a factor in the likely contenders later in the week with several realistic chances for the title with previous good finishes at this venue making quick starts.
So quickly were the birdies coming that it became difficult to keep up with the speed of the leaderboard changes but as the morning field completed the rounds there was one name standing out above all – James Nitties.
Photo – Anthony Powter