By Brian O’Hare
(This story also featured in the April 2016 Edition of Inside Golf)
IT happens to most amateur golfers somewhere in their careers … the mind starts to wander and they begin picturing themselves as a pro.
After all they’ve got the right caps with their favourite sponsor’s name emblazoned across the peak, they’ve got the right clubs, the favourite branded balls. It’s only a small leap really.
Even if they are a high handicapper and the thoughts will clearly never turn to reality, they still happen. There they are on the practice green and suddenly they have a 15 foot putt to win the US Masters. Oh the glory of it all.
But for the better players, maybe more correctly the better, more determined players, the thoughts can sometimes turn serious.
For example, the thoughts certainly turned serious for Sydney’s Guy Wall.
Wall started playing golf as a five year old and by 20 had a very respectable 10 handicap. Respectable that is for a part time amateur … just think what the Day’s and Spieth’s of the golfing world accomplish by the time they are 20.
As a youngster, Wall knew he was never good enough to be a pro, but as he got older the idea continued to niggle at him.
He was a very good club golfer, playing pennants for Pymble for 20 years and amateur events whenever he could get away from his successful financial planning business.
“I was never good enough when I was young but the older I got I just thought to myself, ‘If I just keep competitive and keep playing pennants, keep fit – I think that’s an important one – you know … then maybe?” he recalls.
“Then around 47or 48 I thought, hang on, a couple of more years to turn 50 and I started taking it seriously. Got a coach, [well-known PGA Professional] John Serhan out at St Michaels [Golf Club in Sydney].
“John and I worked on a plan to get me ready for the [Legends Tour] qualifying school, because we have to go there as amateurs.”
Wall saw his coach as often as he could and took some time off work to play and practice (he says that “fortunately” his business partners are all golfers and “understand the passion”).
“I started playing a lot of mid-amateur and amateur events just to try and play as much as I could and get ready for the tour,” he says.
Wall turned 50 in January 2015 and it was crunch time. He turned up at the Legends qualifying school at Sandhurst Golf Club in Melbourne, shot rounds of 71- 71- 73, came first and received one of just the three new tour cards available each year.
Suddenly he was a pro golfer, on tour and “playing with guys I’ve watched on TV for ever.”
His first event as a pro didn’t exactly go as planned.
“Yes absolutely it was daunting,” he says, “The first game as a pro I think I had 81… shocking score. It was the Cromer Legends event I was just very nervous and thinking ‘shit, have I done the right thing’. You know here I am I’ve spent all this time and effort to do this. But fortunately the next week at Killara I played really well, I think in the top five, shot 1-over, and that kind of got my mojo back.”
Then in May he got his first win, a Legends event in Tumut followed shortly after by another in Cootamundra. The rookie was starting to feel at home.
In November came a big highlight of his first year when he was paired with Peter Senior for the first two rounds of the Legend Tour’s premier event, the Australian Senior PGA Championship.
Walking off after 36 holes at Richmond Golf Club, Wall was ecstatic to be able to stand next to a leaderboard that read in order: P Senior, M Harwood, G Wall, R Davis, P O’Malley.
“It is just so exciting,” he told us at the time. “I mean I have had the privilege now of playing with Peter Senior, I’ve played with Mike Clayton, I’ve had a practice with Rodger Davis, I’ve played with Ian Baker-Finch, I’ve played with Terry Price. Just all these guys I used to watch on TV and now I’m playing with them; and the last two days with Peter Senior who has just finished 35th on the US Champions Tour.
To be alongside him and watch him go is great. Trying to keep up has been difficult but it’s been good.”
Wall said their games were comparable in many respects, but he knew he still had a way to go.
“[Senior] just knows how to score. I think I’m just not as consistent as him. When I hit a good one it is comparable but we’ve walked off after two rounds and he’s six under and I’m three under,” he said.
Now in the midst of his second year as a pro, Wall continues to progress, and when we published this was 20th on the 2016 Legends Tour Order of Merit after just 11 appearances (The leader Tim Elliott had played 19). Wall finished 10th in 2015.
But having successfully taken the first step, the ambitious Wall is looking to take another one. He says his plan was to spend the first couple of years “gauging where I am in the pecking order”, working on his consistency, and then he might “look elsewhere”.
That elsewhere will be “somewhere between” the Champions Tour, Japan and European senior tours.
“I think in the next couple of years I might have a crack at one of them,” he says. “I’m not sure which one but I’ll go try one of the three.”
For all us amateurs with occasional flights of fantasy Guy, please do give it a crack. And all the very best of luck.