Kiwi tied at top of Women's Open leaderboard

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2014
Stacey Tate
NZ GOLF/ BWMEDIA
'HAPPY PLACE': Stacey Tate has a share of the lead at the end of the first day of the New Zealand Women's Open.

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Sydney-based Kiwi golfer Stacey Tate has rediscovered her ''happy place'' and she had every reason to feel chuffed yesterday.

Tate produced five consecutive birdies over holes one to five during her back nine at the New Zealand Women's Open to catapult to top of the leaderboard.

She finished her round with back-to-back bogeys, but it was still good enough for a four-under par 68, and the co-lead with South Korea's Seon Woo Bae.

What was astonishing about Tate's impressive play was the fact she did not manage to get in a practise round in the lead-up to the tournament.

She only flew into Christchurch late on Wednesday, instead opting to walk around the Clearwater course as preparation.

Tate, 29, was all smiles after her round last night, but it hasn't always been the case.

The former North Shore resident has only recently returned to golf after falling out of love with the sport and chucking it in.

''I got sick of it,''  she said.

''I went into the real world and gained a bit of perspective on life and golf is my happy place, so it's good to be back.''

She worked in a variety of jobs ranging from real estate to personal training, before taking up an administration position with the Rose Hill Golf Club in Sydney. Tate has since played in a couple of tournaments, missing the cut at last week's NSW Women's Open.

Tate made a solid start to her round yesterday with pars in four of her first five holes.

''I started off pretty shaky. I was pretty nervous to get out there. It's always nerve-racking to come to your own national open, you want to do well. Once I got into the round it started to flow.''

She turned in a sublime performance over the back nine, firing six birdies to rocket to the front of the leaderboard. She said her focus coming into the tournament had been to not overcomplicate her game and it had proven a successful strategy.

''My goals for the week were to keep things as basic as possible - centre of greens, centre of fairways. Just thinking really clearly out there. It's nine seconds or 10 seconds on the ball, so just really focusing on that moment.''

She bogeyed her final two holes of the day, ruining her outright ownership of lead, but was still pleased with her opening round.

Tate attended the University of Memphis between 2004 and 2008 on a golf scholarship. After completing her liberal studies degree she played on the LPGA's Futures Tour - now known as the Symetra Tour. Before heading to the US, she represented New Zealand in the Commonwealth Trophy event against Canada, Great Britain, Australia and South Africa.

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Tate tees off at 7.30am today and admitted she was hoping for more of the same.

''Hopefully, I can take advantage of some of the quiet, still conditions. The last five holes [yesterday] were quite demanding with the wind.''

- Stuff

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