Host club head pro Ireland’s Brian O’Donovan could not be more delighted to be playing all four rounds of the Hong Kong Open.
O’Donovan, 35, was out first on day two producing a superb three-under par 67 to momentarily enjoy the clubhouse lead before he finished the day right on the halfway cut mark in the $US 2m event being played on his host Hong Kong Open course in suburban Fanling.
The Bandon-born O’Donovan began working at the famed Hong Kong Golf Club in July after many years working at the just as prestigous Mission Hills resort on the China mainland.
However it was only about two weeks ahead of this week’s International Series event that O’Donovan was extended an invitation to join the likes of major champs Cam Smith, Patrick Reed and fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell competing in the premier Asian Tour event.
O’Donovan was a member in 2018 of the PGA Tour China series of events but this week is a new high for the Irishman, and with fellow Hong Kong pro Danny Harrison on the bag, the pair are having a great time.
However, it was a slightly emotional O’Donovan who walked from the course realising what he has accomplished.
“It’s great to be representing your club, and getting the invitation means a lot as it’s a privilege, and then to go out and play quite well has been nice”, he said.
“So, it’s really good for me personally but I am thinking also of the club that one of our guys has managed to make the halfway cut and, yes it’s good.
“I played really nice though nothing dropped yesterday whereas today I manage to hole a couple and that has been the diffence really in the two rounds”.
Indeed, O’Donovan had teed-off at a crisp 6.35am and was off to a positive start with birdie at the second hole. He produced seven straight pars ahead of making the turn with a birdie at the ninth before moving to four-under for his round with birdies at par-5 13th and then at the par-4 17th.
His only hiccup of the round was in missing the green in regulation at the last, the par-4 18th while he proudly walked off to a very appreciative crowd and many, no doubt, who know the Irishman well in his role as HKGC head pro.
And when O’Donovan talks of the improvement with the ‘short stick’ in his hand, he recorded just 25 second day putts and seven fewer than a day earlier.
Looking back on his playing career, he contested 14 events in his 2018 PGA Tour China career making the cut in just five. Now he’s hopefully assured of probably the biggest pay cheque in his on-course career.
One thing is now certain, O’Donovan is going to have many more spectators out in his group over the weekend.
Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmi heads the field by a stroke in posting scores of 65 and 63, and with the duo of Aussie major winner in Smith (63 & 66) along with South Korean Sanmoon Bay (66 & 63) who are each just a shot back.
Graeme McDowell is well-placed after grabbing six birdies in a five-under 65 which sees him in 11th place at eight-under, lurking just four off the lead.
‘G Mac’, currently ranked 663rd in the world, is also looking to add some OWGR points in what is only his sixth OWGR counting event of 2023.