One month, four opens a cast of potential champions – who’s your pick?
It’s open season in Orange and surrounding areas over the next month and, if you ask Central West District Golf Association secretary Peter Mitchell, up to eight of the region’s best are in line to mount serious challenges on four of the biggest titles this season has to offer, starting with this weekend's NAB Country Club Open.
Saturday and Sunday’s 36-hole shoot-out is then followed by opens at Blayney (27 holes, November 19), Duntryleague (36 holes, November 25-26) and finally Wentworth (36 holes, December 2-3).
Mitchell believes the likes of Dubbo open champion Jones Comerford, Parkes open winner John Betland and Cowra veteran John Kirwan are all a hope of a title in the next month.
Throw in the current form of Mudgee’s Mark Hale – who will also play in the NSW Open - the prowess of Bathurst young-gun Scott Matheson and Orange hopes James Conran and Rob Parfett and the next month of golf will be, as Mitchell puts it, “red hot”.
But those contenders shouldn’t forget one man – Robert Payne.
“Don’t poke the bear,” Mitchell said, determined not to upset the Duntryleague gun by leaving him off any potential winners list.
“His form’s not as good as it used to be but as long as he’s playing he’s a chance.”
Payne is easily the most consistent golfer in the region and is a multiple-time champion in each of the looming four opens.
Simply, he knows what it takes to win.
But Mitchell said the chasing pack was always looming.
“A Jones Comerford might pop up at any of them – his score in winning the Dubbo open was ridiculous,” Mitchell added.
Jones won his home open by 12 shots and shot a 62 around the first 18 holes.
“He’s finished the HSC now, he might want to bash a few balls around before he heads off to the US,” Mitchell continued.
“I know there’s a contingent from Dubbo coming over for the Duntry open, too.
“A Steve or a John Betland can knock off Payney, Peter Kirwan’s another. I like Robert Parfett, too, he’s a chance this weekend. Country Club is short.
“Conran’s a chance if he plays any of them … it makes for a red hot month, I think.”
Mitchell ruled out the possibility of one golfer claiming all four though.
“Not in the current climate, no,” he said.
“But the fact there’s four (opens) in a row, it’s good for golf. They should be hotly contested and nothing but positives. No reason not to play them.”
Mitchell was looking forward to the month, but the Blayney event specifically.
He says the well-supported small-town opens were some of the best tournaments to play in each year.
“Little clubs are often the lifeblood of the area really. Wellington, Manildra, Blayney, it’s good, fun places to play golf,” he added.
The NAB Country Club Open tees off on Saturday.