by Tony Durkin
GOLF: In-form golfing prodigy Cassie Porter is set to test her much-improved game against some of the best in the business and hopefully pre-qualify for the Isuzu Queensland Open.
Cassie, 15, is one of only three female golfers to enter the pre-qualifiers, which will be held at Wynnum and Carbrook golf clubs from October 23. The Queensland Open will be staged at The Brisbane Golf Club from October 26-29.
The other amateur seeking to pre-qualify and play in the four-day Open is Maroochy River's Rhianna Maree Lewis, while Gennai Goodwin (Indooroopilly), who turned professional only three weeks ago, will also pit her skills against the men. Last year Gennai and Becky Kay (Coolangatta-Tweed) contested the pre-qualifiers, but did not make the cut.
Cassie, from Peregian Springs, has enjoyed a sensational past two months of golf, winning the Katherine Kirk Classic and the Sunshine Coast Invincibles Masters, as well as celebrating her 15th birthday. And last week she shot a four-round two-over 290 to win the 15 years girls championship at the Jack Newton International Junior Classic at Cypress Lakes, and finished seventh in the Girls Junior Championship.
But the highlight of the past few months has been the astonishing improvement in her game.
After qualifying 22nd in the Queensland Women's Stroke Play at Bribie Island on August 20, four days later she was beaten in the semi-final of the Queensland Amateur ( Pacific Harbour) by eventual winner, Hye Park. Cassie was also crowned Champions of Champions held in conjunction with the stroke play event.
Three weeks later she came from seven shots back to win the Katherine Kirk Classic by a stroke from defending champion Ashley Lau. Cassie's brilliant final-round four under par 68 at Maroochy River featured six birdies.
But her winning streak was far from finished. Defending her four-round Sunshine Coast Invincibles Junior Masters title, she blew her opponents away with a with a phenomenal 11 under-par total of 277 in the four-round event played at Twin Waters, Pelican Waters, Peregian Springs and Noosa Springs.
At Cypress Lakes last weekend a rare double bogey to the tricky pin on the par-four eighth hole on day two proved costly. She four putted on a hole which she birdied every other day.
Cassie's ambitions are as simple as they are lofty. She wants to be the No 1 golfer in the world - something she has dreamed about since she started playing golf at the age of nine. First, though, she wants to cement her place in the top five female amateurs in Australia. She is currently ranked 71st.
"Playing in a field of mostly men - and from the championship tees - is a huge challenge but something Cassie is really looking forward to,” said her mum Di.
"At this age the more she puts herself in pressure situations the better she will be able to respond as her experience and her confidence grows. Yes, she will be trying to pre-qualify for the Open, but if she doesn't it will still be a great experience for her.”
In February this year, at just 14, Cassie played in the pre-qualifying for the Victorian Women's Open and finished 13th in the field of 52.
The pre-qualifying events for the 2017 Isuzu Queensland Open have attracted 108 amateurs and 69 professionals who are looking for a start in the 93rd staging of the historic event. Depending on final numbers for the Open, as many as 15 positions in the field could be up for grabs. - TONY DURKIN