Dobbelaar leads Australian PGA field

Murray Wenzel |

Louis Dobbelaar will do his best to ignore the prospect of his first big pay day after the greenhorn professional carded a seven-under 64 to lead the Australian PGA Championship.

The 20-year-old dominated the amateur scene at home before securing his 2022 PGA Tour Latinoamerica card in November.

He carried that form directly to Royal Queensland — where the tournament returned for the first time since 2001— to lead a field missing its biggest US-based stars in the hunt for the $180,000 first prize.

Dobbelaar holed out from 100 metres on the second hole for eagle and was five-under after seven holes.

He recovered from his only bogey on the eighth to birdie the next hole, as well as the 12th and 15th to take the outright lead and hold onto it at the conclusion of the first round.

The Brisbane native, caddied by world No.1 tennis star Ashleigh Barty’s fiance Gary Kissick and coached by Cameron Smith’s mentor Grant Field, leads from fellow local Aaron Pike and Royal Queensland member Jed Morgan (both at six under).

Five others are a further one or two shots back, while Scottish Open champion and newly-established world No.49 Min Woo Lee signed for a 68 earlier in the day and 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was one over.

Two players were forced out on Wednesday after testing positive to COVID-19, while Damien Jordan bizarrely had to retire mid-round after slicing his hand trying to move a stake on the course.

COVID-19 had already caused havoc for the event, forcing its cancellation in 2020 and forcing the 2021 to be postponed from Decmber last year until this week.

It leaves the tournament crying out for a new champion to follow household names Adam Scott, Smith and the likes of Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in the 1980s.

“That’s a pretty cool feeling,” Dobbelaar said of leading a tournament with such a rich history. 

“My game definitely feels good, I’ve got to keep trusting myself and doing all the good things.

“I haven’t made any money yet (as a pro) so it’s definitely something new to me. 

“It’s probably a bit overwhelming at first but once I accept that I can do my stuff and just play golf.

“I found a few things last year that have helped me transition into a being a pro, it’s all exciting stuff and I’m grateful to be where I am today.”

Pike is leaning into the added exposure after enjoying the clubhouse lead until late on Thursday.

“You want to be winning these, you want to be at the top of the tree and you want the camera on you, you want the interviews, you want all these kind of things,” he said. 

“Being comfortable (with) being uncomfortable is something that I’ve had to get over and learn to do.”

Used to the bright lights after a breakout European Tour win propelled him into the top-50 and earned a Masters berth later this year, Lee was pleased with how he began his season.

“A little scrappy on a couple of holes, but expected,” said Lee, who thinks 15-under par could be enough to win the title this week.

“Definitely, if you do all the right things and hit good shots there’s a lot of birdies out there.”