Su Oh did not expect this week to have the hope of Australia at the ISPS Handa Vic Open. She has, after all, spent too much of the past three years in the shadow of Minjee Lee, her Olympic teammate who has risen to number 7 in the world with a series of victories around the world, including two triumphs here.
But the 22-year-old Melburnian Oh is the leading local contender after two laps on 13th Beach.
The American Kim Kaufman (66 today on the Creek-course) has the lead at 13-time against the Japanese Haru Nomura on 11-under, while Oh is pretty placed third on 10-under after she had a 68 on the Beach course carded with her opening 67.
Oh, a child phenomenon that qualified to play in a Women's Australian Open at only 12, has been on a slow burn since but its improvement has been fairly stable in recent times. She was in the top 60 in the LPGA Tour rankings last year and while she still has to win on the big podium, her world ranking has risen to number 78.
A victory this week would be for her monumental, coming home, with her family in the galleries and with the root of a two-year exemption to play on the LPGA, by far the largest and most lucrative tour in ladies' golf.
The failure of the 23-year-old Lee to shoot this week – she is even par, 13 shots of the lead – has paved the way for Oh to get into the limelight.
As an amateur, Oh played in the last group with Lee when the Western-Australian won here in 2014. But they have a lot more history than that: they were teammates in a victory of the Australian World Championship before they became professional, and members of the Karrie Webb fellowship also joined together, and Oh beat Lee in the 2013 Victorian amateur final in an epic match.
Oh could have won the Vic Open in 2017, but lost her chance and ended up as a shared third. This time she is a more mature player. Today was a good example: she only had eight fairways for the day, but threw brilliantly with only 27 putts. "I did not hit the ball as well as I could, or I can," she said later.
Oh today had four birdies in the front nine, including a delightful chip-in on the par-three-third and a long bomb on the par-three seventh. As the wind increased, she was quiet for the rest of the day, but placed a 68, four at the bottom of the beach course to get into battle.
"I feel good," said Oh. "I think I'll still get a bit nervous when I'm on the first few holes, but those nerves help me because I've started well, it's a gravel there, difficult game, I'm looking forward to the weekend." ; & # 39;
Those who stand for Oh have a good reputation. The 27-year-old leader, Kim Kaufman, is a member of the LPGA players advisory board who admits that she has a lot to say about the prize money for women in the game. When the tournament was added to the schedule of the LPGA Tour at the end of last year and she got her playing rights back, it was not a good idea to play for an event with a similar price.
"I would come regardless," Kaufman said. "I would ask for an invitation, I told them last year, I think it's just so great that they do it, equal pay, and we all want more prize money and the same prize money, maybe it's not $ 10 million. is someone who starts with this, I love it. "
Kaufman, who grew up on a golf course in Clark, South Dakota, but now based in Texas, has par-five seventh hole on the creek track and the last two holes birdied to end with a bloom. "You know, I had heard a bit of it last year (the Vic Open) and I've been quite frank about coming here and it has been lived up to every expectation, which was great," she said. "I followed (Italy) Matteo Manassero and boys behind us and I think it's really cool and I urge everyone to come and play. & # 39;
Veteran Karrie Webb is on the leaderboard in her first tournament since last August, rolled back the years with a series of five birdies in seven holes from the seventh to the 13th on the Beach course and also made a nice birdie to shoot 65 , the lowest round of the day for the women.
The night leader, the English Felicity Johnson, followed her opening 65 with a 74 on the Beach-track to go to ninth position.
-13 Kim Kaufman (USA)
-11 Haru Nomura (Japan)
-10 SU OH (AUSTRALIA)
-9 Charlotte Thomas (England)
-7 KARRIE WEBB (AUSTRALIA)
Alena Sharp (Canada)
Olivia Cowan (Germany)
Marissa Steen (USA)