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Tessa takes route 66 to Bay course record

IF Tessa McDonald needed extra motivation heading into the women's national interprovincial in Auckland, Saturday's round on her home track was the perfect injection . . . a course record.

The No.1 women's golfer in Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay shot a sensational 8-under 66 at Awapuni Links, just two days before leading her province at the interprovincials on the Akarana course.

She carried that form into Day 1 of the week-long matchplay tournament yesterday, chalking up a win, followed by a narrow loss to one of the country's top young players as HBPB took on Northland and Manawatu-Wanganui.

At her now customary No.1 spot in the five-woman side, McDonald beat Shardae Bulkeley 4 and 3 as HBPB tied 2½-all with Northland yesterday morning.

McDonald then had a humdinger of an afternoon battle with Man-Wang counterpart Tara Raj — the runner-up at the recent New Zealand amateur championship on the Poverty Bay course — with Raj sneaking across the line 1-up to give her team a 3-2 victory.

The talk of Poverty Bay Golf Club, however, was McDonald's sublime performance at her home track on Saturday.

McDonald started with a birdie, ended with a birdie and there were another six in between on a flawless card featuring nines of 33, 33.

But while the red scores dominated, McDonald made special mention of her pars and her putting.

“I made a lot of putts — one long putt from off the green for par on the third (hole) and a lot of clutch par putts as well.”

McDonald said the course record did not come into her thoughts until she birdied the 17th to go 7-under.

“It was weird. I wasn't really thinking I could break the record . . . I didn't want to get ahead of myself.”

As she stood on the 18th tee, she knew 70 was the number to beat and her aim was simple — to make par.

Playing alongside her was clubmate and HBPB team reserve Ellen Ball, who recorded McDonald's last act on her phone.

McDonald sank a six-metre downhill putt for birdie, the ball dropping in on the bottom side of the cup and an elated McDonald raising her arms in triumph.

Her 66 was four strokes lower than the previous record — only recognised when there is no placing — held by two players.

Two players shot sub-70s at the New Zealand amateur at Poverty Bay in October — Momoka Kobori (68) and Tara Raj (69) — but these were on a course featuring a mixture of women's and men's white tees.

McDonald's round is the lowest score by a woman in Poverty Bay's 127-year history but it is not the first time she has shot 66.

In 2012, a 16-year-old McDonald carded 7-under 66 at Gisborne Park — including nine birdies — but it was on a course with placing and temporary tees.

Meanwhile, McDonald got her national interprovincial campaign off to a victorious start on the hilly Akarana course yesterday.

She was solid in her 15th-hole win over Bulkeley as she adjusted to the faster greens compared with home.

Her match with Raj was a chance for revenge after losing to her in the round of 16 at the NZ Amateur.

“There was never more than one hole in it,” McDonald said. “We were all-square a lot of the way. She would go 1-up, then I would get one back.”

A Raj birdie on the 16th to put her 1-up proved the difference.

“I had a chance (to win the hole) on 17 but missed my putt.”

Veteran Janie Field, at No.2, had HBPB's other win against Northland while No.4 Clare Choi halved her match.

Choi and Aseri Miekle had wins for HBPB against Man-Wang.

RECORD-BREAKER: Tessa McDonald shot 66 to break the women's course record at her home Poverty Bay course on Saturday. Picture by Paul Rickard