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