Thank you Bonville

The Australian Ladies Classic marked the return of professional golf at Bonville Resort. In this chat with Golf NSW, Bonville’s Chairman Peter Montgomery describes his joy at seeing this magnificent course back in the public eye – where it belongs.

Peter, Bonville has just finished staging this inaugural women’s LET event. What’s your assessment of it?

I’m absolutely thrilled. The team here has done an outstanding job, particularly Brad Daymond the General Manager and Chris Neal as Course Superintendent, and Aaron Banks his deputy. They’ve done an outstanding job. They’ve put in extremely long hours. Most nights they’ve been out on the course with floodlights, mowing and doing things at 9pm and going again at 4.30am. It’s been an amazing effort and I’m delighted with the way they’ve presented this event.

Green staff work hard to get the course back into tournament condition on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

We’ve seen some spectacular golf, but this course is something else isn’t it?

It is. It was quite a feat when it was constructed, to carve through this forest a beautiful golf course with all the undulations and spectacular visual scenery.

The history of the course is very interesting because it was a plantation forest. It wasn’t a natural rainforest. It was going to be cut down and used for paper pulp. A very enterprising entrepreneur got the idea to create a golf course through it. I suspect it would be very difficult to get these approvals today, even though it was a plantation forest. It abuts the state forest where there is whole-growth forest of these beautiful flooded gumtrees.

The tournament was well supported by passionate golf fans. PIcture: Tristan Jones | LET

Everything seems to grow beautifully up here.

It’s apparently because the mountains come in close to the coastline here. That’s why Coffs Harbour was one of the banana-growing centres of Australia and is now one of the main centres for blueberry growing. It has that atmosphere even though it is roughly halfway between the Gold Coast and Sydney. The other banana-growing capital was way up north in Tully. The temperature here doesn’t get too cold, and it doesn’t get stinking hot like it does up north. And the humidity usually isn’t too bad.

Everything is green as Celine Boutier plays a shot during her final round. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

You’ve had great professional and personal success, where does this event reside in terms of its importance to you?

I’m very pleased for the team at Bonville that they’ve been able to see this event being held here at a place where they work day in day out.

It is a big site. A normal 18-hole golf course with clubhouse is approximately 120 acres. At Bonville we have the luxury of having our golf course spread out over 450 acres. Hence, you get the effect on each hole that you are completely separated from the rest of the course. You can play a game of golf here and hardly see anyone the whole way around – except for people who are in your group.

Koala- spotting was popular with both golfers and the galleries throughout the week. PIcture: Tristan Jones | LET

As a destination for golfers, Bonville rates right up there. Was that the plan?

The reason why Bonville does well in comparative terms to many other golf courses is because of that visitation by groups. We’ve had groups coming since the course opened 26 years ago. And they religiously come in groups and play for trophies we keep in our trophy cabinet up there, and it’s one of the highlights of their year.

They vary from young groups, father and son groups, business groups. Companies bring clients here in a group-like format and to develop new clients. We also have a lot of weddings here in our function centres upstairs.

The magnificent Bonville setting makes it popular for weddings and conferences as well as golf groups. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

What is the club’s ambition when it comes to professional golf and its association with the sport?

We’d like to expand it. It’s expensive in a sense in that we lose revenue for that week, in accommodation and green fees, so it’s a significant expense. But it’s also helping let people in the Australian community and overseas understand that there is a very fine golf course here in Coffs Harbour.

Coffs Harbour itself has many virtues in the sense of being close to Sydney and Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It has beautiful surf beaches, it has rainforest, they have some very fine restaurants, they have outstanding fishing. In fact, Coffs Harbour once held the world record for blue marlin.

Professional golf is here to stay at Bonville.

There’s also the northern and southern currents that intersect at Coffs Harbour. It’s like a mini Barrier Reef.

There’s many things to do here, there’s white water rafting. In recent years the airport has been substantially upgraded and there are many flights a day; direct flights from Melbourne, direct flights with Qantas and Virgin.

But coming back to your question and our involvement in the expansion of professional tournaments here, we’d love it to happen. As they say crudely in some occasions, we’re open for business.

The golf is awesome, but there are many other attractions to Coffs Harbour. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

Bonville will at the very least host this event for the next four years.

Yes, there’s a five-plus-five agreement. If we are all happy at the end of five years, both sides, we’ll go forward. Hopefully, we’ll be sitting in here in 10 years time talking about whether we’ll go again.

 

This event was put together very quickly. Were you concerned about the timeframe?

It was very quick and we were a bit nervous about whether it was possible to respond in time. We provided the venue and a lot of assistance by our staff, but the background operation of putting it together by Golf NSW, the Australian Ladies Professional Golf, and the Ladies European Tour – that has been outstanding.

Bonville Chairman Peter Montgomery, left, with Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser, West Australian golfer Hannah Green, and His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley, Governor of NSW.

We’re very pleased with the way everyone has co-operated together and brought it together in such a very short time. We’ll debrief afterwards to see how we can make it better next year.

 

They do refer to this course as Australia’s Augusta. Was that deliberate in its construction?

The 17th is very similar to the 12th at Augusta. It’s a similar length, it has an elevated tee. We don’t quite have the swirling winds they have at Augusta, but we have the back bunkers and the big water carry in the front.

The only thing missing at Bonville’s 17th is the swirling winds.

There are some other holes that have similarity in some of the shots, but we get told that all the time. It’s not really proper business practise to compare yourself to the heaven of golf, but in our own little way we like to think we resemble that beautiful course.

We are happy to think that if people can’t get to Augusta they can at least get to Bonville. They’d be welcomed here with open arms.

The visiting players turned spectators into fans for life at Bonville.

Last question. What’s the highlight of the week so far?

It may sound corny, but the highlight has been to see at reasonably short range the wonderful camaraderie between the women golfers. Young women, or girls in some cases, who are travelling the world in what must be strenuous and difficult circumstances at times. Changing courses and climates all the time, and many of them operating on a shoestring.

I really like that very much.

We were delighted Dame Laura Davies came, and I had the pleasure of playing with her in the pro-am. She was delightful company, but she’s also an amazing golfer for somebody who has won so many tournaments on so many continents and still maintains her passion for the game.

That was a great thrill.

 

Rookie reigns in Bonville

French trailblazer Celine Boutier has added a second Ladies European Tour title to her name with a resounding win in the inaugural Australian Ladies Classic Bonville in Coffs Harbour today.

It took longer than expected. Throughout the week the heavens threatened to deluge the Coffs Harbour region, and despite many false starts the downpours and lightning finally gave way around 1.45pm – stopping play for more than three hours.

All it did was delay the inevitable. Boutier, who started the day five strokes ahead of her nearest rival, stared down the challengers one-by-one to record her second LET win, four months after capturing her maiden title at the Sanya Ladies Open in November.

“It was hard, and I was a little bit nervous,” 24-year-old Boutier admitted later, concerned the sustained rain and fading light might halt her momentum when play finally resumed at 5.45pm (AEDST).

“It’s not always easy when you have to get back out in the middle of a round but I did my best.”

The biggest challenge was meant to come from Hannah Green, but her putter let her down this week. The 22-year-old West Australian, considered the hottest talent in the women’s ranks in Australia, found the greens difficult to read and managed a high finish in the event without setting the place on fire.

Her week was best illustrated by her final hole in the event, where she drove the ball to 150m on the par-five 18th, struck a beautiful iron 12 feet from the hole and then three-putted. Still, she said all week that she was struggling with her putter.

“The first two days I can’t complain about but the last two days there was no momentum. I said to Paul (her caddy) ‘That pretty sums up the week right there, in front of everyone’.”

Boutier also saw off the challenge from Holly Clyburn, which never came throughout the weekend despite the Briton leading after the opening two rounds.

The fight came from the young American Katie Burnett. Something changed from the 28-year-old’s previous two LPGA starts – where she missed both cuts. On moving day here, Saturday, she moved up the leaderboard with the equal-best round of the day. Then on contending day, she gave Boutier a scare.

The Georgian missed a four-footer for eagle on 7, then missed genuine birdie chances on 12, 14, and 17, but had reduced Boutier’s lead throughout the afternoon from five to the eventual two strokes the French youngster needed to win.

“Celine played really well. I missed a few opportunities, but I did start the day five back, and I started the tournament four-over through 11. If you had’ve told me then that I would finish second I would’ve been like ‘ok, great’.”

Of the Australians, Queenslander Rebecca Artis said on Saturday she could win from six back, but a one-over front nine ended those hopes. The talented Queenslander will take full confidence into her first season on the LPGA with a strong back nine, to finish at -1 for the day and -4 for the tournament in T7.


“I didn’t make enough putts,” the 29-year-old said.

“In the last two days I had to get my husband (who is also her caddy) in to help me read them. Overall, top 10. I’m not too unhappy with that.”

The fight for leading amateur came down to a birdie for Stephanie Bunque on the last hole, putting the young Victorian into the top 20 and securing her the plate.

“I thought it was really good in the end,” Bunque said of her week.

“It was pretty evident on the first day that I struggled with the greens (she shot 77). Coming from Melbourne we’re not used to grainy greens.

“But I thought I bounced back very well for the next three days. I kept my cool, knew what I had to do and go out there and do it.”

 

LEADERBOARD (after final round)

1: Boutier, Celine – 10
2: Burnett, Katie – 8
3: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 7
4: Holmqvist, Daniela – 6
T5: Madsen, Nanna – 3
T5: Clyburn, Holly – 5
T7: Danielson, Casey – 4
T7: Artis, Rebecca – 4
T9: Thompson, Charlotte – 3
T9: Green, Hannah – 3

UPDATE: PLAY TO RESUME AT 5.45PM

UPDATE: play will resume at 5.45pm after an almost four-hour delay. Officials decided to complete the tournament tonight after persistent lightning and thunder strikes forced the course to be cleared just before 2.00pm.

Earlier, play was suspended midway through the final round of the Australian Ladies Classic when lightning and heavy rain hit the Coffs Harbour region.

A severe weather system that was bombarding southeast Queensland and parts of NSW  forced the abandonment of play, around 1.45pm AEDST.

Players were taken off the course and a decision was made on the progress of the final round once the weather conditions improved.

FRENCH RESISTANCE ON SHOW AT BONVILLE

The threats were meant to be coming, but it’s the youngster Celine Boutier who is poised for the biggest win of her professional career as the Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville enters the business end here at Coffs Harbour.

Starting with a five-shot lead overnight, the 24-year-old has added two birdies on the front nine to be at -12 for the tournament and unlikely to be caught.

Briton Holly Clyburn’s wishes for the “rub of the green” today seem to have evaporated, with just a single bogey in between regulation pars through the front nine, and with the leader seemingly out of reach.

The biggest challenge has come from young American Katie Burnett who scored back-to-back birdies on six and seven. But it could have been even better, narrowly missing a four-footer on seven for eagle, then a 12-footer on eight for birdie. Nevertheless, this tournament is still for the taking despite the buffer Boutier enjoys.

The finishing stretch of holes on the incredible Bonville course starts from 12, with challenges throughout the finish.

Australians Hannah Green and Rebecca Artis are probably too far back now. Green has played solid to be at even par for the day, whilst Artis is one-over for her round which is now on the back nine.

LEADERBOARD (after 10 holes)
1: Boutier, Celine – 12
2: Burnett, Katie – 8
T3: Holmqvist, Daniela – 6
T3: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 6
T5: Cowan, Olivia – 5
T5: Madsen, Nanna – 5
T7:Clyburn, Holly – 4
T7: Green, Hannah – 4
T9: Danielson, Casey -2
T9: Thanapolboonyaras, Pannarat – 2
T9: Artis, Rebecca – 2

WHO’LL CHASE DOWN BARNSTORMING BOUTIER?

French youngster Celine Boutier will take a five-shot lead into today’s final round of the Australian Ladies Classic Bonville, but the chasers are confident she won’t have it easy.

Starting yesterday’s round two behind overnight leader, Briton Holly Clyburn, the diminutive 24-year-old played flawless golf to put daylight between herself and the field in this Ladies European Tour-sanctioned event.

In a field where experts suggest the title might be lifted by either Clyburn or Australian Hannah Green – who started as tournament favourite – Boutier simply got on with the job of racking up birdies in conditions which tested even the veterans.

“Celine played fantastic out there. She did not miss anything. I didn’t expect her to go out there and shoot 67 at all, in these conditions. It was her day,” said Clyburn, who started the third round at -8 but slipped back into a share of second with a disappointing two-over 74.


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“I’m in touching distance, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I’m hoping that she (Boutier) doesn’t do that (again) tomorrow and that I get the rub of the green. We’ll just wait and see.”

Boutier said she wouldn’t change her strategy despite holding a big lead.

“My strategy has been working very well. And I think the girls can shoot very low, so I don’t think I should be too conservative,” the 24-year-old said.

Australians Hannah Green (-4) and Rebecca Artis (-3) are within striking distance, but Green will need her putter working to have a chance at this inaugural title.

“The bogeys have come because I’ve been three-putting, which is quite unusual. I’m usually more consistent, but I’m glad I’m making this many birdies. Hopefully, the scorecard will be a little cleaner (today),” the West Australian said.

The 22-year-old still has the confidence she can win.

“If you want to win, you have to believe you can,” she said.

Artis has won from this distance before, and is confident she can apply some pressure.

“I’m not too far back … I can win from there. I’ve won from there before. I won in Scotland from six back, and I won in Sweden from six back. I’ll just go out and see if I can get it going and put some pressure on during the back nine,” the 29-year-old said.

Catch all the action in today’s final round LIVE on Fox Sports More – CH507 from 1pm.

LEADERBOARD (after third round)

1: Boutier, Celine – 11
2: Clyburn, Holly – 6
T3: Burnett, Katie -5
T3: Holmqvist, Daniela – 5
T3: Cowan, Olivia – 5
T3: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 5
7: Green, Hannah – 4
T8: Artis, Rebecca – 3
T8: Madsen, Nanna – 3
10: Parker, Florentyna – 2