FIFTY FOUR year old former New Zealand PGA Champion Stuart Reese gave tournament golf away for 16 years after losing all feel and confidence in his golf swing.
“I couldn’t even hit balls in front of my members, I was just too embarrassed,” the Club Peninsula Professional (NZ) says.
Now he has fought back with an opening round of six under par to lead the Greater Building Society Australian Masters Invitational at Emerald Lakes Golf Club.
The New Zealander took advantage of the pristine conditions to be three shots clear of his nearest competitors.
Reese has been battling his way back by making some dramatic mechanical and attitudinal changes to his game.
But he still doesn’t have full confidence in the adjustments yet after folding late last week in the Australian Senior Open.
Reese has showed some great form this week at Emerald Lakes Golf Club after winning the Sponsor Pro Am. His opening round on Thursday consisted of six birdies and no bogies. The senior professional said: “I didn’t play great but I’m happy with the score.”
Hardly a breath of wind was evident all day but despite the perfect scoring conditions some of the greatest names in Australian golf were finding that the Emerald lakes layout was proving a little more demanding than many had initially thought it might.
The overnight rain had made the course just a club or two longer and the scores were reflecting a more demanding layout than had been the case earlier in the week.
Local golfer Neil Wall shot a solid opening round in the morning of three under par 69 and was soon joined by three other players in Terry Price, Sydney club professional Greg Hohnen and Brisbane based professional Allan Cooper, to leave them trailing Reese by three.
While not officially a senior golfer, Price was granted a special invite to this event to assist in bolstering the strength of the field and took full advantage.
Price had an eagle, four birdies and three bogies and despite his score he self admittedly indicated was not at his best. He headed for the practice fairway looking to find the form the he feels he needs to stay on top of his older rivals this week. “There are several important weeks coming up and I need to get my game back in shape,” he added as he began to beat balls in the heat of the afternoon.
Price has now lost status on the European Tour after two years struggling with a leg broken in a bizarre accident in England. He has struggled to return to the level of fitness he needs to contend at the level he once did on a regular basis.
Wall on the other hand is a player who only turned professional at the age of 50 and six years later is beginning to record some very impressive performances in senior tour events in Queensland and elsewhere.
He recently won the Queensland Senior Open at Nudgee. Wall had done two years of a traineeship with Merv Ulhmann at the Oxley Golf Club in Brisbane before giving it away.
“They were long hours and the pay was only $12 a week and I decided to do other things. I wanted to turn professional again a little later in life but family commitments precluded that. At the age of 50 I decided it was now or never and have really enjoyed it since.”
Wall’s round consisted of five birdies and two bogies and he was quick to thank the people at Emerald Lakes for allowing him to practice there on a regular basis with his good friend Brian Jones in the lead up to the event.
Fifty-one-year-old Hohnen is the club professional at Killara Golf Club in Sydney’s north where he has been for the last 35 years. Hohnen played the Australasian Tour on occasions earlier in his career but on turning 50 he has begun to play more including ten or so senior tour events in 2008.
“The management at Killara have encouraged me to play events and I am really enjoying doing so. It was a very solid ball striking day, I think I hit 15 greens and was really happy with the way I played generally.”
Tournament drawcard Ian Baker-Finch opened with a round of even par.
“I am playing really nicely when I trust it but every once in a while I lose focus and don’t turn properly and a bad one comes out of nowhere normally a hybrid or a long iron,” said Baker-Finch after his round.
“The nice thing about it is that while I want to play well it is not as important as it once was if I don’t. The course played a little longer today with the overnight rain but the greens were great but my golf not so. “My goal was to shoot three 69’s which I thought would have been a good score so now I have to shoot something pretty low if I am to have a chance.”
(Original source material courtesy PGA of Australia)