Four share the lead in PGA Seniors
By Adam Hicks
A SEVEN-METRE birdie putt helped Garry Merrick to a share of the lead yesterday after the first round of the Australian PGA Senior Golf Championship at Byron Bay.
The Australian No 1-ranked senior carded a three-under 69 to finish the day level with Trevor McDonald, Craig Owen and David Armstrong, and one shot ahead of Rodger Davis.
Merrick recovered from an early bogey on the third hole to post birdies on the 5th, 12th, 14th and 15th.
"I'm reasonably satisfied," he said.
"I missed a few short putts."
But he made one long putt on the par-three 14th to recover some ground.
"I hit an iron off the tee to 20 feet from the hole," he said.
"I said to my wife, who is also my caddie, 'I'm going to hit this'.
"I just had a feeling about it.
"But the way I'd been putting all day, she gave me a funny look.
"I didn't like that hole until today."
Merrick said he had played the course seven times in past three weeks after arriving early to spend time with his mother, Edna, at her Ocean Shores home.
But he denies that a healthy dose of home-cooked meals had propelled his assault on the leader board.
"No, they are just making me fatter," he chuckled. "But it has been a good preparation. I feel very comfortable with the course.
"I'll be very surprised if I get in a position where I don't know what to do."
After a strong start, Merrick has firmed as favourite for the event but says the tag does not add any pressure.
"I like the course, I'm very happy out there and if you're enjoying what you do it is not a task," he said.
"I'm not feeling any pressure, because every time I hit a golf ball, whether at practice or in an Australian Open, I'm always trying to play the best shot I can and that doesn't change.
"Like any sport, if you go out and enjoy yourself you'll probably play well."
Merrick has topped the Australian Seniors order of merit for the past three years, yet has no plans to play on an international circuit.
"I prefer it in Australia," he said.
"I'd rather be playing on the country courses around Queensland and New South Wales because the hospitality is second to none. Byron Bay is just sensational.
"The people here, I can't speak highly enough of them."