The Von – His Legacy Lives On

Just a few days over eleven years ago Norman Von Nida passed away peacefully at his aged care home on the Gold Coast, his life celebrated soon after in Brisbane by what was a massive gathering of family, friends and industry folk.

Over the last seven or so years of Norman’s life I became close to him and four years prior to his passing put together an audio tribute to him which included his thoughts and many other key figures in his golfing life having their say on the contribution he made to their lives.

It is a piece that is timeless and hopefully highlights to those who weren’t already aware just what an impact he had on the game in Australia and on the lives of many people including my own.

Course rankings – their relevance or otherwise

Once again, the age-old debate of course ratings / rankings or their relevance is raised with the release of Australian Golf Digest’s ratings this week.

It raises a lot of debate, discussion (some of it heated), opinion and parochialism and I guess in an era where we are constantly craving for a greater acceptance of the game then such exposure can only be a good thing.

It also, no doubt, assists the respective media outlets to raise money in the form of advertising and offers good and at times controversial content.

I have however always been an advocate of a golf course being good if you yourself like it. It does not matter to me what others think – I can form my own opinion and I value my own thoughts ahead of those of the eclectic mix of panellists often put together to formulate such lists.

There is no reason why you can’t hold an opinion equally as sound as those on any panel although the benefit they have of course is that many will have had the chance to at least see and perhaps play many of the courses under consideration.

But have they? I wonder how many of the panellists on any such panel have played the golf courses being analysed and therefore is the final summary a fair and reasonable assessment of the opinions of those on the panel.

In my time in the golf industry I have seen, at times, a desperation by some golf courses who appear keen to do anything to have their course listed amongst the best in the land.

To some extent I understand that desire as they can then use the result as a marketing tool (if those marketing a facility are capable of doing so effectively that is) and turn a high listing into commercial benefit and there is nothing wrong with that.

But I get back to the point I made earlier. These lists are not gospel they are opinions and we know what people say about opinions.

If you like a golf course and you enjoy its challenges and rewards and get fun out of the experience then play it again and again and again. That will be the feedback a golf course needs to tell those involved in its management just how good it is and not a listing put together in many cases by those who have no greater right to an opinion than you the user.

Back yourself and your judgement and don’t be offended if the golf course you like has not made the ‘top 100’ or whatever criteria is relevant.

Conversely, don’t get too carried away if it does.

Any time golf courses are being discussed as much as they are during a survey release is a good thing but remember to keep the results in perspective.

Use it as a guide perhaps when considering where you might play on a golfing holiday or even in your local district but don’t believe, because it is written, it is how it is.

There is no better judge of a golf course than the individual who pays his (or her) money for the experience. They will know if they want to play it again or put it in the never to be played again basket.

That is the most accurate of surveys.

Jason Day: The Will to Win

Day with his 2015 USPGA Trophy – courtesy of PGA of America

Jason Day perhaps summed it up best himself when he said his victory at today’s Wells Fargo Championship was ‘probably one of his best’.

Now, for a young man who has a USPGA Championship, a World Golf Championship and Players Championship amongst his now 12 PGA Tour titles that was quite a statement.

Clearly events such as the PGA and the Players Championships have far greater meaning in his career to date but what Day was suggesting was that amongst a series of victories where his highly recognised fighting, scrambling qualities have played a key role, this was ‘up there’.

By his own admission this was a day which could well have gone differently for the 30-year old but he found a way to dig in when early in the day he was under the pump with a series of wayward tee shots and missed greens.

Today he hit only 6 of 14 fairways and eight of 18 greens but, as is so often the case in Day’s career to date, the will to win can overcome inadequacies in a game on any particular day or week.

“I had no idea where the ball was going today especially off the tee,” Day told CBS’ Peter Kostis moments after sealing the victory.

“I missed a lot of fairways and a lot of greens but my short game stood the test which was nice.

“I mean this was probably one of my best wins I have ever had because of how hard everything was today. The biggest thing is you are playing mental games with yourself.

“You are thinking and subconsciously sitting there going ‘you are going to fail, you are going to fail’ but I kept on saying ‘forget about those thoughts and keep on pushing and try and give yourself opportunities’.

The self-talk is not something new to Day and has been a feature of his still relatively young career, often finding a way to produce stunning par saves to turn an ordinary round into something significantly better.

Day did exactly that today with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes and an impressive par save at the last, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with his near hole in one at the 17th.

Day is considered one of the strongest players in the modern game, regularly inside the top twenty in driving distance on the PGA Tour but it is the combination of his creative imagination around the greens and the skills and self-belief he possesses to realise that imagination that are perhaps his greatest assets.

I have observed Day for many years, watching him win his two Queensland Amateur Championships in 2004 and 2006, playing with him on one occasion when he was just a 16-year old when representing The Hills College during his school years and then of course from near and afar during his professional career.

His natural golfing brain and creative skills have always impressed this writer and, along with his tremendous tenacity, I believe are amongst his greatest assets.

One of the first events I saw him play as a professional was at the 2011 US Open at Congressional when he further confirmed my earlier impressions and in the nearly seven years since there has been nothing to change those thoughts.

In just his third start in a major in that event, and with nowhere near the experience he has now, Day produced some of the most stunning up and downs during the final round to finish runner-up to Rory McIlroy, albeit eight shots behind the Northern Irishman.

Day following his runner-up finish at Congressional in 2011 where his short game skills were on display

Day has a ‘never give up’ attitude and today, when he could have been forgiven for wondering just where the next tee shot might end up, he found a way to win his 12th PGA Tour title.

Day’s earnings as a PGA Tour player are now nearly US$42 million, a remarkable feat for a player still just 30 years of age. He is the highest placed player on that all-time money list of players 30 years of age or younger.

He is currently second on the 2018 FedEx Cup table, third on this year’s money list and has moved back inside the top ten in the world ranking to 7th after being at his lowest standing in more than four years (14th) prior to this week.

The announcement this week that Day and his wife Ellie are expecting their third child was further reason for celebration for the Ohio based Queenslander and is no doubt further evidence of the good place he is in in his life right now.

Ahead lie this week’s Players Championship, an event he won in 2016, major championships at Shinnecock Hills, Carnoustie and Bellrive and there would be little surprise if by year’s end Day becomes Australia’s second highest winning major champion.

I have always been of the belief that Jason day could potentially become Australia’s greatest ever male player although just how that is quantified is perhaps debatable. Major championships are one criteria and in that regard he trails only Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and David Graham but he is definitely trending in the right direction.

But for injury and illness concerns he might well be there already but given he is not far short of that accolade and still only 30 years of age suggests that he is well on his way to a very special place in the history of Australian golf.

Today was just further evidence of that.

 

 

 

 

 

World Ranking Body Says No To One Asia

picture – Matt Jones the last Australian to win a One Asia Tour event

Earlier this year the golfing world was surprised by the announcement, essentially in the week of the tournament, that the Solaire Philippine Open would become a One Asia Tour event and that it would be the first of several on a resurrected OneAsia Tour schedule.

Given the demise of OneAsia in recent years it was a surprise to many that the Tour had risen like a Phoenix from the Ashes after its original eleven event schedule in 2011 and 2012 had been reduced to just three by 2017.

Then, in February, came the announcement that the OneAsia Tour was back with the playing of the Philippine Open with a further four events to be scheduled for later in the year in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Philippine Open was duly played and won by local Miguel Tabuena, a former winner of the event who no doubt felt a calling to play his own national open ahead of the Asian Tour and New Zealand Tour’s New Zealand Open which was played the same week.

The OneAsia Tour had earlier included events such as the Australian Open and PGA Championships on its schedule after the PGA of Australia was one of the original driving forces behind the establishment of the rival to the Asian Tour.

An announcement today by the Official World Ranking Board however would appear to be a blow to the standing of the tour, at least at this stage.

The statement read as follows:

“The Official World Golf Ranking Technical Committee and Board have monitored OneAsia over the past two years and reviewed the status of OneAsia as an OWGR Eligible Tour at their recent meetings during April 2018.

The Board’s primary responsibility is to ensure and protect the integrity of the World Ranking and, while it appreciates that OneAsia has received investment to aid a fresh start, it also recognised that there have been significant changes to the Tour’s structure, ownership and management.

It is also noted that OneAsia has not met the standards of an OWGR Eligible Tour for over three years.

In view of this, the Board has decided that OneAsia will no longer be an OWGR Eligible Tour with immediate effect.”

Anthony Quayle continues to impress

Anthony Quayle’s runner-up finish at the Japan Golf Tour’s Crowns Tournament in Nagoya provides further evidence that the 23-year old Gold Coast based Northern Territorian is rapidly developing into one of Australia’s most promising young players.

It was his best finish to date since turning professional, was by some way his biggest cheque (A$120,000), provides a great boost of confidence and, importantly, will go a long way to retaining his status in Japan for 2019. Quayle’s finish over the weekend has him in 13th place on the Japan Tour money list and the leading Australasian.

Quayle turned professional late in 2016 after a solid amateur career but was forced to produce a best of the day round of 69 in the final round of qualifying for the Australasian Tour in early 2017 just to gain the right to play that year.

His rise has been if not meteoric then certainly impressive and this weekend’s performance confirms the regard in which he is held by many.

This was Quayle’s third Japan Tour event after earning his status there in December when 4th at the long winded and demanding Japan Tour School but with five top tens in his rookie season on the Australasian Tour last year and a 3rd place finish at this year’s Vic Open things were already looking good prior to heading to Japan.

When he turned professional, Quayle was outside the top 1250 in the world, now 16 months on he is now inside the top 300.

A winner of the North West Amateur in the US and the Keperra Bowl Championship in Australia during his amateur career, Quayle was a contemporary of the likes of Brett Coletta, Cameron Davis, Curtis Luck and Harrison Endycott and actually played with those players in the 2016 Australian team at the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Korea.

He now stands higher in the world rankings than all but Australian Open Champion Cameron Davis amongst that group and appears to have found the perfect place to play (Japan) as he develops his career in the paid ranks.

Quayle, now based at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast, is yet another product of the Hills International College’s golf programme where he spent five years after moving there from his family home in Gove in the Northern Territory.

The college, at Jimboomba just south of Brisbane, has proved quite a nursery for Australian and International golfers with two world number ones, Jason Day and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, having spent time there during their formative golfing years.

Quayle has done all that could be asked of him and more at this stage of his career but it would seem there is a lot more to come.

Brendan Jones – continues to fly under the radar

Brendan Jones with the 2011 Crowns Tournament Trophy

43 year old Australian Brendan Jones is in contention for yet another victory in Japan and if he was to convert his second place at the halfway point of the Crowns Tournament in Nagoya this weekend it would be his 15th title on the Japan Golf Tour.

Jones first joined the Japan Golf Tour in 2001 after his long-time coach and mentor Alex Mercer convinced him to test the competitive water of professional golf in Japan before considering other golfing arenas.

Seventeen years later Jones is the most prolific foreign money earner in the history of the Japan Tour (equivalent A$12 million) and displayed it is possible to develop a very successful career by commuting to and from one of the world’s leading tours rather than establishing a base in that country.

Jones did try the USPGA Tour in 2005 and 2006 after success on the Web.Com Tour in 2004. He was one of the beneficiaries of the push by the then Nationwide Tour into Australasia through much of the 2000’s, twice finishing runner-up in events in Adelaide and Christchurch and gaining limited status on the secondary tour in the US.

That status improved when he won an event in Chicago and finished runner-up, the limited status becoming full status and ultimately a card on the PGA Tour in 2005.

He would return to Japan full time in 2007 after splitting his time between the tours in 2006, injury and perhaps craving for a return to a lifestyle he had enjoyed earlier the driving force behind the change. The decision was soon vindicated when winning on three occasions that year and Japan was where he would stay. It was a case of back to the future.

Jones has escaped the attention of many Australian golf fans as when the flagship events of the Australasian Tour are being played in November and December he is involved in the lucrative, end of season events in Japan.

He has however played well on occasions in his home country having finished runner-up to Peter Senior at the 2012 Australian Open at the Lakes after a brilliant last round in some of the most demanding conditions imaginable saw him so nearly secure his national open.

Jones with a putt that could have forced a playoff at the 2012 Australian Open 

Such a win in his home country might have alerted Australian golf fans to just how good Jones is although fame is not necessarily something he pursues. Rather the chance to ply his trade in a commercially successful way and to be able to commute between his family in Canberra and Japan which he has done for so long now is his motivation in staying on the Japan Tour.

Jones underwent surgery for a wrist injury in 2013 and it appeared for a while as if it might be a career altering moment but nearly three years later he won again and has had several other top three finishes since.

This weekend he gets the chance to win his 15th Japan Tour title in an event he has won previously but, even if he does not, the former Australian Amateur Champion continues to perform with great success as arguably the most successful foreign golfer in the history of the Japan Tour.

I say arguably as Graham Marsh was also a hugely successful player in Japan although some of his early success there came before the forming of the Japan Golf Tour as we now know it.

Either way Brendan Jones perhaps has a greater place in Australasian golf than his profile here suggests.

It is not something that appears to bother him greatly however.

 

 

Sarah Kemp – decision vindicated

While she will no doubt be disappointed by her near miss in a Ladies European Tour event in Morocco over the weekend, 32 year old New South Wales golfer, Sarah Kemp, will be buoyed by the boost it has given her both in terms of confidence and bank balance and that it vindicates what must have been a difficult decision for her to make late in 2017.

It was her equal best finish in a four-round event in professional golf and further confirms what must have been a painstaking choice to focus her full attention in Europe rather than continuing her very limited success on the LPGA Tour.

As an amateur Kemp was one of Australia’s best of her era. Victories at the Australian Strokeplay (twice), the Australian Junior Championship and playing in Australian teams at the World Amateur Championship, the Tasman Cup and the Queen Sirikit Cup highlighted a successful amateur career and saw her turn professional in 2005 with significant credentials for a professional career.

She had an excellent first season on the Ladies European Tour in 2006 after comfortably gaining status there at her first attempt at qualifying and later that year finished 9th at the LPGA Tour Q School and played the LPGA Tour as a rookie in 2008. It was a dream start.

Despite the significant progress she had made in such a short time however Kemp regularly flirted between full and conditional status on the LPGA Tour over the next ten years, supplementing her schedule and income by regular visits to the Ladies European Tour.

By late in 2017 however she had reached a point where the idea of continually pursuing the next level on the LPGA Tour proved too much for her and she made the (perhaps difficult) decision to focus her attention in 2018 on the Ladies European Tour.

During the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open Championship in Auckland in September Kemp had reached the crossroads. Being the last full field event of the season and well outside where she needed to be to regain full LPGA Tour status again she needed something special that week if she was to regain the right to play in the US but it was not to be.

Kemp during an Australian event – photo Bruce Young

Kemp did play well in Auckland. After winning a pro am in the lead-up she was well enough placed heading into the horror weather of the final day where a round of 77 saw her finish 41st.

It was a finish which further confirmed the direction she needed and indeed had to take and so any thought of heading back to the LPGA Tour School was abandoned and she would focus her attention on Europe.

“It has been a real mental struggle – I didn’t really start the year well although I haven’t played all that badly, especially tee to green,” said Kemp in Auckland.

“I had a poor year in 2016 and decided not to go back to Tour School which, in hindsight, perhaps I should have but instead played the early season events and because of a reasonable week at the Australian Open I did ok in the re-rank and managed to play a reasonable amount of events but kept missing cuts.

“I look at those around me and feel I can compete but it is just that one up and down or one birdie putt that didn’t go in and there is my 1 or 2 over and on the LPGA Tour you can’t afford to shoot over par as the cuts every week are generally under par.

“So, it has been tough to keep going in the hope that something will turn around and keep pushing through it and ten events later I still haven’t made a cut.”

While the lure of the LPGA Tour and its riches are no doubt enticing, Kemp is well aware that the style of golf and courses in Europe and the countries the Ladies European Tour travels to are better suited to her game.

“I have had a better record there and that the courses are a bit shorter probably suits me but it would be nice to get back to the States.”

By focusing her full attention in Europe in 2018 however Kemp may well rebuild some of the confidence that years of battling the rigours of the LPGA Tour has eaten away and there could well be the opportunity to tackle the US again in the future if she so chooses.

Her performance in Morocco suggests that decision is already being vindicated and that long awaited first win in Europe may not be far away.

She might also see other arenas as a possibility such as Japan and even if she never plays the LPGA Tour again Sarah Kemp is already proving more than capable of building a very successful ongoing career.

Top photo courtesy of Ladies European Tour

 

Emotional and milestone day for John Senden

He might have only just made the cut at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio today but for 47 year old Queenslander John Senden it may well have felt like a performance of far greater significance and, to add to the joy, it was his birthday.

Twelve months ago, following this very event, Senden took a break from the game to be with his son Jacob who was undergoing heavy treatment for a brain tumour highlighting that for Senden and most others who would find themselves in such a predicament attending to family comes first.

Senden returned to competitive golf a month ago at the Web.Com Tour event in Louisiana where he missed the cut and did so again at last week’s RBC Heritage Classic but with those two outings now under his belt and the improvement competitive golf offers he has produced a second round of 70 to be in 48th position.

Senden a two time winner on the PGA Tour in addition to his 2006 Australian Open Championship title, has been a solid performer on the PGA Tour since first joining it in 2002 and has since secured earnings of US$21.5 million on that tour alone.

Senden has what is known as a ‘Family Crisis’ exemption to the PGA Tour where he has 13 starts to earn 310 FedEx Cup points – the amount needed to finish 125th last season.

Jacob Senden still has a tough road ahead, but the tumour has reduced in size, and for father John that he has been able to be there for his son and yet successfully return to one of the other great loves of his life (golf) today must have been an emotional one in so many ways.

Congratulations John Senden.

 

 

 

 

Mark Brown joins select club in Tauranga

43 year old New Zealander Mark Brown today became one of just two players to break 60 on two occasions when he achieved the feat during the second round of the Jennian Homes Charles Tour’s Carrus Tauranga Open in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty.

Jim Furyk achieved the same feat when he produced a round of 58 at the 2016 Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour to add to his round of 59 at the 2013 BMW Championship.

For Brown, however, his two sub 60 rounds have come at the Tauranga Golf Club which he knows well as the former Wellingtonian is based in Tauranga these days.

Brown,  a winner on both the European and Asian Tours earlier in his career, shot the same score four years ago, to join Richard Lee who also recorded the magical number at the former home of the New Zealand PGA Championship in 2010, the layout admittedly conducive to low scores but to perform such a feat on two occasions is quite a feat for Brown.

The score is the third best recorded in tournament golf worldwide, Furyk and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa having produced rounds of 58 in respective events on the PGA and Japan Tours.

Ishikawa’s fellow countryman Shigeki Maruyama also recorded a round of 68 in US Open Sectional Qualifying in 2010.

“It feels amazing, this place is pretty special to me so it’s special to do it in front of all the members and supporters here,” said Brown.

“I thought about it [shooting 59] when there was about five holes to go and was thinking about going even lower than 59 at one stage, but I didn’t play two or three holes well towards the end.


Brown holes from off the final green for birdie

After 16 superb holes of golf, the highlight of his round and maybe even his career came on the par three ninth where he holed a flop shot from a hugely difficult spot.

“It was a terrible tee shot, I tried to hit a little six-iron in there and it was a really poor shot under that pressure, then got to the chip and it wasn’t the easiest shot either. I said to Micaela [caddie and wife] that it was either going to be a four or a two and just opened the face and let go.

“It was probably one of the best shots I’ve hit in my career.”

Brown, looking to win the Tauranga Open for the 4th consecutive year, leads by two over rookie New Zealand professional James Anstiss.

Japan’s golfing stocks rise with Kodaira win

In winning the RBC Heritage Classic in a playoff against Si Woo Kim on Hilton Head Island today, 28-year old Japanese golfer Satoshi Kodaira became just the 4th golfer from his country to win on the PGA Tour.

As a result of his win Kodaira moves to a personal high of 27 in the world ranking, earns the right to take up membership of the PGA Tour and if his post victory comments are anything to go by then the USA will be his hunting ground in the mid to long term.

“This is a stage I’ve been dreaming about,” said Kodaira. “And having this opportunity to play full-time is a dream come true. So, of course, I will accept the full-time membership.”

Kodaira will join his fellow countryman Hideki Matsuyama (two years his junior) on the PGA Tour and today spoke about what an inspiration the now five time winner of the PGA Tour has been to him.

“I’ve been watching Hideki Matsuyama in Japan, and I’ve always looked up to him or wanted to play just as well. So I feel that I’m getting closer to that level. So I’d like to do my best in major championships and hopefully work hard at it.

“Hideki is a great player, and of course I’m not as good as him, but I’m getting closer. But his course management skills is what I’d like to learn from him or being better at management of the course.”

Isao Aoki, Shigeki Maruyama, Hideki Matsuyama and now Kodaira are Japanese golfers to have won on the world’s most significant tour, Aoki becoming the first with his Hawaiian Open win in 1983, Maruyama with three victories and Matsuyama with five and climbing.

The six time Japan Tour event winner won his first PGA Tour title in just his 15th start but he has been a prolific winner of titles and money in Japan since first joining that tour in 2011 as a 21 year old.

Not only has he won six titles in his home country he has been a consistently high finisher especially over the last eighteen months or so.

In fact in his two Japan Tour starts this season in Myanmar and Singapore he had finished runner-up and then with the right to play events in Australia and the US he continued that good form including a debut 28th at the Masters.

It was not only the victory but rather the manner of his win today that so impressed a rather shocked golfing audience who were least expecting a win by a man with such limited experience in this situation.

Kodaira’s final round of 66 was the equal best of the day and his second round of 63 also set the tone on Friday.

This win perhaps more than many of the others will offer the belief of other Japanese players such as Yuta Ikeda, Yusaku Miyazato, Hideto Tanihara and indeed Ryo Ishikawa that winning on the holy grail of professional golf, the PGA Tour is not the bridge too far it might have previously seemed.

Now the task for a male Japanese golfer to reach greatness and receive cult status in his home country is to win a major.

It is not the near impossible dream it might have been two years ago.

Photo top – Matsuyama – Japan’s best internationally thus far