Players tee off for championship

He might be on top of the leaderboard after the opening round of the 2021 club championship at the Mount Gambier Golf Club, but a set of unfortunate circumstances means Joel Mann will not be a contender for this year’s prestigious title.

The four-handicapper shot 74 on Saturday, the equal best round of the day in what were arguably the worst weather conditions of the year.

But with his son booked in for an operation in Adelaide this Saturday, coinciding with the second round of the club championship – where only the top eight 36-hole scores progress to the play-offs – he did not nominate for the event.

But a phone call early in the week from the hospital advising the operation had been postponed meant he could have played after all.

“It’s a bit unfortunate but it’s just the way it is,” he said philosophically.

Mann, unable to play competition golf regularly because of his work, teed off early in the day on the 10th hole when the wind and rain were at their worst.

He shot 39 on the back nine after bogeys on both par threes and the difficult par-four 17th, but improved on the front nine to post 35 off the stick as the weather improved slightly.

“I still left a lot out there, but considering the conditions the score was okay,” he said.

“When it’s a stroke round it’s more of a mental game so you have just got to stay in the moment because you never know what can happen.”

The other player to post an equal best-of-the-day round of 74 was three-time winner and defending champion Darren Bilney.

He started on the first hole and defied the wind and rain to shoot 35 on the front nine.

Despite a bogey on the par-four 13th he was still on track to par the course before uncharacteristic bogeys on the 15th and 16th saw him finish with a 74.

Among the next group of players who will be hoping to secure one of the eight positions in the championship finals is six-time champion Anthony Williams who was in 6th spot after shooting an opening round of 79.

To underline how difficult the conditions were, three-time winner Hayden Schroder, playing off a one-handicap, shot a nine-over par 81 to sit back in 14th place.

And no less than 19 single-figure handicappers posted scores of at least 20 over par.

As well as that, just three players managed to beat their handicaps on the day.

One of those was Mann who led the way in A Grade with a nett 70, two shots clear of Nicholas Moretti.

B Grade was taken out by Brad Von Duve who came in with a nett 71, one ahead of Robert McLellan.

And in a remarkable performance, the C Grade winner was 10-year-old Blake Schroder who shot 101 off the stick from his 34 handicap to finish with a nett 67.

That was a hefty eight shots in front of runner-up Max Tollner.

As well as the club championship being on the line, the top eight players in four other grades also have the chance to progress to the finals of those grades after this Saturday’s second round.

Leading the way in A Reserve is eight-handicapper Josh Mann who shot 82 to lead Josh Knowles by a single stroke.

Von Duve and Robert Harkness were the B Grade leaders on 87, while Robert McLellan’s 89 was good enough for a one shot lead from Jack Jennings in C Grade.

Not surprisingly, Blake Schroder was a clear leader in D Grade with his 101, five shots clear of Winston Prowse.

Meanwhile last Thursday’s stableford competition saw Scott Whicker victorious with 41 points.

Playing off a handicap of 16, Whicker compiled an excellent 23 points on the front nine after shooting 40 off the stick and added 18 on the back to finish one point clear of Damian Smith.

Another point back in third place was Jason Shanks who shot 74 off the stick from his five handicap.

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