WINNER: Rebecca Artis (right) with tournament namesake Jack Newton after claiming the trophy in 2015. Picture: Tim BradshawMore than a decade ago Rebecca Artis was part of the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation.
In 2015 she became one of the few women to claim the annual pro-am tournament named in his honour.
But this week she returns to the Hunter-based celebrity classic with a new challenge on the horizon having recently qualified for next year’s US LPGA tour.
“I’d been to the final stage of Q-school four other times and hadn’t managed to get through so it was a big relief to finally get the job done,” Artis said.
Artis earned her card in Daytona earlier this month and heads back to America as a full-time player in March after the summer at home, including the Australian Open at Kooyonga from February 15.
“I’m excited. It will be a big year for me,” she said.
“But I always love coming back to play The Jack. I won it a couple of years ago and I came up through the foundation.”
On course at the current Jack and Artis recovered from a five-over front nine, including a triple bogey on the par-three eighth hole, to finish two-over after Tuesday’sopening round at Crowne Hunter Valley.
The 29-year-old, basedon the Gold Coastbut raised in Coonabarabran, sits six shots off the pace with Melbourne’s Tom McLaine(-4) leading the way.
Strathfield assistant professional Sung Park (-3) is one stroke further back while defending champion Matt Stieger and Harrison Russell (-2) are also in the mix for top honours.
Best of the celebritieswent toformer Knights prop Matt Parsons whilejockey Tim Clark and premiership-winningJets striker Joel Griffiths also performed well.
Play continues at Pokolbin on Wednesday.
PHOTOS: Jack Newton Celebrity Classic day one