Pro Am to potential PGA champions

BY now you would have heard that Geoff Ogilvy will defend his 2008 PGA Championship crown, John Daly has made a lightening-fast recovery from his rib injury and Vijay Singh will make his first appearance at the 104th Australian PGA Championship.

More untold are the stories of the trainee and Pro Am PGA hopefuls who play round after round, learning the ropes of what it takes to be a PGA Champion one day.

Matt Collum, whose home club is Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast, is one of these aspiring golfers. His ranking this year will prevent Matt from competing at this years PGA round, although he will still be present on course – caddying for his friend Andrew McKenzie.

“I have been in the program for a while now, but in order to compete in big events like the PGA you have to be in the top 50 trainees,” Matt says.

The trainee program is a three-year, full time commitment to work toward becoming a PGA professional. Trainees are given coach and education training courses and spend time with a PGA member to gain on-the-job training and experience.

Upon graduation, trainees can become tournament and club professionals and are qualified to be a vocational coach.

“It will be good to be part of the action caddying for my buddy Andrew, he plays professional golf in Korea for most of the year – my focus for next year is to make it in,” Matt says.

Andrew, who has been playing the Korean circuit since early 2008, and pocketed over $260, 000 prize money from his tour successes - chose the Korean tour to get him back into the professional game following an early career injury.

“I’d heard from other Aussies that it was a relatively well run and organised tour, so I decided to try and play my card there after a few main Australian tour events earlier in the year,” Andrew says.

“Originally I needed a tour to play so as to get back on my feet, so to speak, and Korea was an option. Actually, it has now worked out quite well and it’s been a bit more than that for me,” he says.
Breaking into the international circuit isn’t an easy thing to do according to Daniel Morrison who has been playing the Pro Am tour here in Australia for the last four years.

“Every Pro golfer in Australia wants to play an overseas tour – there are only a mere few who go straight overseas and hop into that golden lifestyle. To get over there you have to take a gamble on yourself,” Daniel says.

Daniel says the highs come from winning events, and after six wins on the Sunshine Coast tour, and the lows come thick and fast when you’re not in-form and away from home.

“Professional golf is an amazing journey. It starts with so many people telling you what you can’t achieve and flows along by you telling yourself what you can achieve.

“Golf teaches you how to control your emotions. The players who succeed are the ones who have this skill – they are generally calm under pressure and make good decisions,” Daniel says.

“I have noticed people play golf the same way they live their lives. From quick and impatient, to negative and doubtful, the key is to stay calm despite what might be going on in your game,” he says.

Daniel will have to go through stressful pre-qualifying rounds to have a shot at playing the the PGA Championship this year.

“The event is co-sanctioned with the 1 Asia Tour, which means I may not get straight in – I want from this event the same thing I want from any event I play, to do as good a job as I can. Any rewards are just a by-product,” Daniel says.

As for life behind the golf, Daniel loves being home and watching movies with his fiancé Jane, doesn’t enjoy reading (‘Anything I don’t have to read because I can rent it on DVD’) and loves the Matrix series, Star Wars and Monty Python’s Holy Grail. He also loves to chow down on any variation of pasta for dinner.

There is a strong contingent of young golfers entered in this years Championship event- three aussie young guns - Michael Sim, Marc Leishman and James Nitties will all be vying for a piece of the $1.5 million in prize money amongst others like Daniel Morrison and Andrew McKenzie. Supported by Queensland Events, it's not to be missed.

Read more about the PGA Championship at www.championship.pga.org.au .


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