That Stephanie Bunque and Kristalle Blum are the two leading names at the Australian Women’s Classic at Bonville Golf Resort should be no surprise.
The surprise is that it has taken until the final domestic event of the season for both to put their names in such a prominent position on the leaderboard.
At the start of the WPGA Tour of Australasia season in January, the names Bunque and Blum were among those expected to contend regularly.
Since making an eye-catching debut as a professional at TPS Victoria in January 2021, plans for the Bunque breakthrough have been made and then hastily postponed.
A star amateur renowned for her prodigious length, Bunque shot 66 in her second round as a professional at Rosebud Country Club to sit in a share of fourth through 36 holes.
A weekend fade-out was almost expected of a young player suddenly thrust into the limelight, yet the overriding sentiment was that it would be a place where she would soon thrive.
There have been glimpses in the two years since, yet her opening round of four-under 68 on Friday was a microcosm of her career.
A downturn of disappointment followed every rise in expectation.
Six-under through 14 holes in Round 1 courtesy of a 3-wood from 206 metres to set up eagle at the par-5 14th, Bunque made a bogey on 15, birdied the difficult 16th and then hit her tee shot into the water on her way to double bogey on the par-3 17th.
It was the most emotionally fraught way to make even par in a four-hole stretch that any golfer could imagine.
The 25-year-old Victorian, who won the Victorian Amateur the same year as PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner David Micheluzzi, is ready to hand in her ticket on golf’s emotional roller-coaster.
“It shows how finicky this game is and how it can take you for all sorts of rides in very short timelines,” Bunque described her season to date, but it could easily have summed up her round.
“It’s the way the game keeps me coming back. It pushes me away, and then I have a day like today where I’m like, ‘It’s not that bad.’
“I’ve felt like I’ve let my emotions ride the wave too much. I’ve been struggling to maintain a level head.
“That’s something that I’m trying to work on and I think I did a relatively good job of that today.”
Blum, too, is a name expected to feature more often towards the top of the leaderboard.
The inaugural champion of The Athena in 2021 and a winner of the Ladies European Tour Access Series last year, the South Australian has the game to win on the international stage.
Yet her best result this season is a tie for 17th at the Vic Open when Sarah Jane Smith and Min A Yoon have been winning TPS events.
Blum’s focus is on her upcoming return to Europe but she suddenly has two rounds in which to make a name for herself on home soil.
“My mum and my coach (PGA Professional Christine Burton) says Bonville is the one that we can get me to play well around,” said Blum, who birdied the first and 13th holes on Friday in her round of three-under 69, two of Bonville’s hardest holes.
“It kind of suits my game. It’s the greens around here. That was the thing that I struggled with when I first came over here and played these events. Now I feel so much more comfortable around the greens and know what you want to do and where the breaks are going to be.
“I love this place. It’s so picturesque and everything about it is great. That’s probably one of the reasons as well.”
Nipping at their heels are two amateurs with nothing to lose, a veteran who knows an opportunity when she sees one, a PGA Associate riding a wave of confidence and a Kiwi rookie quickly learning what it takes to compete at a professional level.
To Ann Jang, Ella Scaysbrook, Breanna Gill, Danni Vasquez and Wenyung Keh, Bunque and Blum are nothing more than names on a leaderboard.
It’s up to the front-runners now how their names will be remembered come Sunday.