Australian PGA Championship, Young Gun Daniel Popovic Leads

Family heartache driving Popovic

Daniel Popovic

Young Gun Daniel Popovic leads the Australian PGA Championship after the opening round  at the Palmer Coolum Resort course, with a blistering first round of -8 under par 64. Daniel leads by two strokes from Scott Strange who finished with -6 under par 66. Daniel earned his playing privileges by winning the 2012 PGA of Australasia qualifying school, and is playing with his father in mind. Radi, Daniel’s father who introduced Daniel to golf, was diagnosed with leukaemia earlier this year, but has insisted his son play in this event. Daniel spoke of his father’s condition;

” My father found out that he has cancer earlier on in the year and it really shook me around a lot and it still sort of does when I think about it. But I find a lot of strength in him with how he’s fighting that and how he really wants me to push forward with my golf and find happiness through him. It’s called multiple myeloma, it’s leukaemia in his bones and it’s one that’s unable to cure. It is a slow growing cancer. I mean you’re unsure of when the actual day will come but he is a strong man and a very stubborn man so I think he’ll be here for a little while longer.”

Daniel was very proud of his round today anf thinks his parents will be too;

“My mum and dad will be over the moon. My dad will be in tears and so will my mum. They are very sensitive people, my mum would have been balling her eyes out all day. “I want to think of tomorrow as a new day, I want to go out there and play every shot on its merit … and I think if I hit it as good as I have done in the last two months it’s going to be pretty hard for me to shoot a bad score. I’m standing over it this week thinking they’re all going in. I’ve never felt this confident over a putter in my life.”

A practice round with Geoff Ogilvy on Tuesday has proved to be invaluable, a phone call from a friend set up the game;

“I played with him on Tuesday, my good friend Ryan Lynch, his father, Dale, coaches Geoff , and he called me up on Monday night and he said ‘hey mate I’m going to be playing with Geoff tomorrow morning, do you want to come on down?’  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and I came here super early at quarter-to-six in the morning and played 18 holes with him and it was one of the best experiences of my life. He was so nice and so down to earth and gave me so much advice , it was like I’d known him for five years.”

I wonder if Geoff is thinking he may have given out too much good advice to Daniel, now that he is playing catch up in the second round of this tournament. Geoff  is tied in third place, three shots adrift of the leader,  after he and  Zhang Xin Jun from China, and Tze-huang Choo  from Singapore had opening rounds of -5 under par 67.

Dramatically,  Greg  Norman was forced to withdraw from the tournament after just two holes due to illness. He started his round  at the 10th hole at 7.00 a.m.  local time, Greg battled to consecutive bogeys before shaking hands with playing partners Stuart Appleby and Jake Higginbottom on the 11th green.

PGA of Australia CEO Brian Thorburn said;

“Greg Norman has been diagnosed with food poisoning and has been attended to by Dr. Barry Whelan at Mt. Coolum Medical Centre, who spent the morning with him and treated Greg’s symptoms with appropriate medication. Dr. Whelan expects Greg to make a full recovery and has advised Greg to rest in his room in the meantime. While we’re obviously disappointed for the fans who love to see Greg play in Australia, we wish Greg a speedy recovery.”

Get well soon Greg

 

BMW NZ Open Champion Jake Progresses to Pro

Jake Higginbottom

Jake Higginbottom / Getty Images

BMW  NZ Open Champion Jake Higginbottom has suddenly decided to progress from Amateur status to Professional following his amazing win at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch on Sunday. Jake, who could not collect the first prize of $A80,000 on Sunday, originally said he would not rush into professional golf, and would probably turn Pro at the end of next year. I guess his 67 in the final round, withstanding all the pressure from the professionals trying to chase him down, and the lure of all the money available for him to play for has grabbed his attention. Jake’s victory has earned him a two-year exemption on OneAsia Tour and also the PGA Tour of Australia, he also gets automatic entry into the second round of the 2013 US PGA and European PGA Tour qualification schools. The possibilities for him, if he plays well are endless, Jake said he felt comfortable with the move to the professional ranks;

“I’ve discussed this with my team and we’re all very comfortable with the move. I feel that the time is right as I now have playing opportunities in the professional ranks. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to starting my pro career.”

Jake will play his  first event as a professional at the NSW PGA Championship this week at Mt Broughton Golf and Country Club. Golf Australia director Brad James is pleased that their performance program has produced such a talent;

“This is great news for Jake and exactly what Golf Australia and the State Associations strive to achieve in taking players to the next level. Jake has worked hard over the last 12 months and we’re pleased to see him make the next step in his career.”

We wish Jake well in his career as a professional golfer.

BMW New Zealand Open, Won by Aussie Amateur, Jake Higginbottom

Special victory for Higginbottom

Jake Higginbottom/pga,ord.au

Aussie Amateur Jake Higginbottom was won the BMW New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Resort, with a final round of  -5 under par, 67, and a tournament total of -7 under par. Jake had to fight hard to repel the challenge from fellow Aussie’s Jason Norris and Peter Wilson, who both finished tied for second at -6 under par.

Jake made history by becoming the first amateur golfer for 56 years to be crowned New Zealand Open champion with his one-shot victory in the BMW-sponsored tournament hosted by Christchurch at Clearwater Resort on Sunday. The 19 year-old Ausssie  from New South Wales, started the final round three shots adrift of Mark Brown, New Zealand’s main hope of ending a drought of nine years since a Kiwi held aloft the winner’s silverware, the Brodie Breeze Trophy.

Jake was happy to be beating the professionals, to know he was a good as them;

“It is a great feeling and it means a lot me. It is good to come over here and play against the professionals and know that I am as good as them. Mum was crying and Dad was just happy that I made a good speech. I actually talked about the 18th with my mates before the final round. They asked me what I would do if I had a one shot lead down the last and I told them I would just rip one down there.I was most nervous when I had that short putt on the last but it was nice to see that drop and to win is really good. It was good to be a couple behind after the front nine because I knew that I had to make birdies. That is what I did so it was good.”

Mark Brown summed up his disappointing day with the putter, he finished fourth after his +1 over par last round;

” I played well enough, I played beautifully for first 10 holes and didn’t miss a shot.But I only really holed one putt and had 34 for the day which is never going to win a golf tournament. I don’t know, I didn’t start them on line so there’s a technical issue there. I gave myself a lot of chances and think I hit 33 greens for the last 36 holes so that’s a lot of chances I didn’t take. It’s frustration and probably been a career thing for me so I’ve got to get better if I want to reach the goals I want to meet. I’ll go away, work hard, and try and get better.”

So New Zealand will have to wait another year before the chance of having another Kiwi winning the BMW New Zealand Open.

Australian Masters, Mathew Guyatt the surprising leader after 1st Round

 

 

Golf Australia

Matthew Guyatt

Mathew Guyatt/ Getty Images

Mathew Guyatt is the surprising first round leader of the Australian Masters tournament at the conclusion of play on day one. Mathew, from Queensland,  upstaged his more fancied rivals to claim the outright lead by two shots from the big names chasing him down, by firing a superb -7 under par, 65. Another Aussie, Adam Scott , Ian Poulter from England and New Zealand’s Michael Hendry are the players who are just two shots in arrears of  the 57 year-old Mathew on the par 72 Kingston Heath Golf Club lay-out. Naturally t he score board is full of Australians, out of the top forty places there is only one Englishman, Poulter, Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland, three Kiwi’s and a Frenchman, Victor Riu, to interrupt the flow of Aussie flags on the board.

Ian Poulter

Lone Englishman Ian Poulter/Getty Images

There are a whole host of players tied in fifth place at -4 under par, which includes the Aussie amateur Jake Higginbottom and Kalem Richardson who is in his first full year as a professional has rarely been near the top of the leaderboard before, but is hoping for better things to come. Kalem said of his start to this tournament;

“I set my goals pretty high and my goals are always towards the end of the week now, I know I can start tournaments well. Now it is all about putting four rounds together, I’m ahead of where I thought I would be sitting after the first round and I hope I keep playing well. I’ve played around here a fair few times, so that was really helpful. The front nine I was just hitting it really well and on the back nine I made some more putts, I’m feeling pretty good about my game.”

Kalem will have a tough task on his hands if he is to win here, with the likes of Adam Scott and the inform Ian Poulter keen to add another victory to their bulging CV”s.