ANDREW Dodt sensed when his playing partner in the pro-am, Brett Sandvoss, offered to fly him and caddie Ryan Smith home to Newcastle in the retired property developer's helicopter, that he was in for a special week at the NSW Open.
On Friday, Dodt went on a birdie blitz to set a new course record at Twin Creeks, an incredible 11-under par 61, to take control of the $400,000 championship.
The sizzling round, Dodt's best in a tournament, followed an opening 69 and moved the Charlestown-based professional to 14 under, a stroke ahead of Min Woo Lee (64,67).
"I shot nine-under in Vietnam on the Asia Tour in 2008 so 11 under is a new PB," the 33-year-old Dodt said.
Dodt attributed his hot start to a "spot on" preparation but said the unexpected helicopter ride home on Wednesday had provided "a lift".
"It was exciting. You don't get flown home in a helicopter every day," he said. "It was a perfect day and we came in over the Lake. It was picture perfect.
"Brett was a really good, down-to-earth guy. We told him, we were driving home and he offered us a lift. We thought he'd drop us off at Belmont [airstrip] but he said he'd take us wherever we wanted, so we got him to land it beside the pro-shop at Charlestown. Something like that definitely gives you a lift. It was pretty cool."
Dodt had the radar working early on Friday, opening with back-to-back birdies. But it was the stretch from the eighth to the 15th hole, where he drained six birdies and an eagle, which set up the new record.
"Yesterday afternoon, the wind got up and I knew this morning I would have to take advantage of the still conditions," Dodt said. "I took a pretty aggressive approach and went at the pins. Everything was pretty solid but to shoot 11 under you need to hole putts. That's what I did. Most were six-to-ten feet. They are the birdie putts you like to make and keep the momentum going in the round."
Lee backed up his opening 64 with a 67 to be 13 under, a stroke ahead of first-round leader Josh Younger (63,70).
Dodt vowed to "keep the foot down" over the weekend in pursuit of his first NSW Open title.
"It's a course where you can make a lot of birdies," said Dodt, who this year is based on the Asian Tour after a decade in Europe. "The players in Australian are good players and will be coming after me."
Jake Higginbottom was the other big mover of the Hunter contingent. The Charlestown 26-year-old carded seven birdies and a bogey in 66 to be at seven under and to be at seven under and tied for eighth.
Teenage amateur Jye Pickin is tied for 13th at five under.
Jake Higginbottom is making moves in round 2 of the #NSWOpenGolf 🏌️♂️— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) November 28, 2019
4-under through 9, he makes the turn with a total of 5-under.
Josh Younger still holds the lead at 10-under the card.
Get live #PGATA scores at https://t.co/usFfht4qR5 📲 pic.twitter.com/MXDpmLUwVn
NSW Open Leaderboard
Hunter players, 2nd Rd, Twin Creeks Country Club
Made Cut: -14 Andrew Dodt (69,61), -7 Jake Higginbottom (71,66), -5 Jye Pickin (a) (66,73), - 4 Aaron Townsend (71,69 ), -4 Blake Windred (68,72), Nathan Green (73,69 ), -1 Cal O'Reilly (71,72)
Missed Cut: +1 James Nitties (75, 70), +1 Corey Lamb (a) (73,72 ), +3 Nick Flanagan (77,70), +15 Jake Riley (a) (79,80)