• Whitting three back of Hunter Valley leader Campbell

Phoenix Campbell may still be an amateur, but having already won on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia and with an attitude built for tournament golf, he will chase a second victory at the Webex Players Series Hunter Valley, where he leads at the halfway mark.

Returning to Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort after equalling Bret Coletta’s course record of 61 on Thursday, Campbell followed up with a four-under 66 to sit on 13-under with a one shot advantage over Daniel Gale, who signed for a 62.

“Another solid day, didn’t do too much different to yesterday. Few little breaks here and there, a few lips outs, it was a solid day for me,” Campbell said.

“I managed to stay patient there towards the end. I was giving myself a few opportunities and I wasn’t capitalising, so to stay patient and finish strong was a big credit to myself there.”

Also crediting this week’s caddie, former Tour player turned elite amateur mentor, Dean Kinney for helping to move on from mistakes and keep things light during the opening two days in the Hunter, Campbell’s lead could have been even larger if not for some bad luck at the 6th.

The site of his first bogey of the week, the QLD PGA champion’s drive careened off a cart path and found a hazard, his six at the par-5 immediately recovered from via birdies at 7 and 8.

“It was a little bit unlucky, but that happens, that’s golf, just got to accept it and move on,” Campbell said.

The Victorian adding a second bogey at the 13th and two more back nine birdies to sleep on the lead … not that he will be aware how things stand.

“I don’t look at the scoreboard at all during the week,” he said. “I’m not too worried about what everyone else is doing, I’m just going to play my best golf and come the weekend have a crack.

“For me personally, not looking at the leaderboard helps me it just makes me focus on my game rather than what everyone else is doing.”

Undertaking his blinkered approach in recent months, Campbell admits he will know where he stands come Sunday if he is in contention, while Gale believed despite having the low round of the day by two shots, he potentially left shots out there on a humid Friday.

“It’s been building, I think the whole season, that super low one, even today I didn’t take advantage of a couple early in the round, but got it going nicely,” Gale said.

Last week’s home course hero adding an unlikely eagle to his six birdies to shoot up the leaderboard and into Saturday’s final group.

Reaching the par-5 16th green in two from 270 metres and draining a curling putt for three, Gale was bogey-free on the day after taking a great deal from Sydney where the NT PGA winner was a start turn around Castle Hill.

“I probably took a lot of confidence from that, I still played solid. For me to play the golf I did with what I was going through, I feel like I handled outside pressures awesome,” he said of last week.

Two back of Gale on 10-under is West Australian Jess Whitting, who signed for a seven-birdie 64 powered by a rediscovery of some of her basics on the range this week.

“It was literally tempo, as stupid as it is. Flat left wrist, making sure it is square on impact. Just two little things that I know, and then I just figured it out this week,” said Whitting, who won a BMW i4 eDrive35 grand coupe with a hole-in-one at the Webex Players Series Murray River.

Noting a similar ball striking round to the previous day, but with putts falling, Whitting will play alongside Campbell’s co-overnight leader Tunrada Piddon who had a level par 70 for a nine-under total.

“I didn’t expect it was going to be low again, I just want to go out and try my best to shoot what I can,” Piddon said. “Obviously playing afternoon today it was pretty hard, it was windy. Towards the back of the back nine, and then halfway of the back nine. It was really hard.”

Taught the game by her father, who runs a golf school at home in Thailand, Piddon sits one in front of the player of the moment Kazuma Kobori.

The three-time Webex Players Series winner shooting a second straight 66 for an eight-under total and share of fifth place with Jeffrey Guan and Japan’s Kotono Fukaya.

“It is definitely an advantage, and I will definitely be using it, but in order to do so I am going to have make some birdies myself,” Kobori said when asked if he believed his success in 2024 increases his presence on the leaderboard.

Kobori’s caddie last week in Sydney, Tyler Wood, one shot back of his “boss” on seven-under alongside Kade McBride, Tim Hart, Anthony Choat and local amateur Ella Scaysbrook.

Six players another shot back on six-under, while defending champion Brett Coletta is part of a seven strong group, including his fellow 2024 Vic Open champion Ashley Lau, one shot further adrift.

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