JAMES NITTIES hasn’t had the best of times on the professional golfing scene over the past few years but he did at least allow himself one smile after leading the Australian Open after the second round at Royal Sydney.
The 34 year old Newcastle golfer has tasted the highs of professional golf with a couple of top tens on the US PGA TOUR, has a win in 2011 on the secondary Web.Com Tour, but of late is more likely to be staying with, as he said, “cockroaches” in some dive while competing on a mini tour.
Most recently he has been staying with his mum and sister in Newcastle and competing in some local pro-ams.
He’d rather be doing that and competing at some level, he said, than sitting on the couch.
‘It’s been a pretty rough last three years golfing-wise,’ Nitties said.
“I’m still enjoying it. It’s just funny, playing mini tours this year in America and you’re a 34 year old and you know you’ve been on the PGA Tour and you’ve competed on the Web and my game hasn’t really changed much from then, but you’re staying in hotels with cockroaches running around.
‘It’s fun when you’re a junior and you just turn pro and it’s exciting – not so much cockroaches – but you’re excited and then as you get older and you experience more, it’s a real battle. The golf courses are very average on the mini tour level. This is the best course I’ve played in so long where you can hit a putt and see it roll out.”
Things weren’t improving that much at Royal Sydney on Friday when he followed up his 2-under in the first round with an even par 36 in his first nine holes (The back nine). But coming home down the front nine he fired a 7-under 29 to lead by a stroke at 9-under going into the weekend.
Nitties’ after round media conference wasn’t that cheerful as he discussed his recent tribulations, but he did smile at a postulated question of whether he would rather win the Australian Open or the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast in a fortnight.
He would prefer the PGA win, he said, probably to the chagrin of Aussie Open organisers, because it would give him a two year exemption on the European Tour.
Nitties if obviously a lot more pragmatic these days than in his earlier career when he had a reputation as a bit of a party boy.
These days he would much rather have a flourishing golf career, he intimated, that have to get a job in the “real world”.
Nitties (65) led by one over Kiwi Ryan Fox (68) with Rhein Gibson (66) a further shot back on 7-under.
Adam Scott was also back in form with a 65 to be tied fourth on 6-under along with a number of others, including first round leaders Curtis Luck and Lucas Herbert, Rod Pampling and Todd Sinnott.
Jordan Spieth was still well in contention, tied ninth on 5-under.
Play gets underway in the third round Saturday at 7.28 with the final pairing of Nitties and Fox hitting off at 12.40pm.Australian Open Leaderboard Australian Open Photo Gallery