IT’S been a long time between drinks for veteran Aussie golfer Stephen Leaney but the 48 year old says he will be powering on after an inspiring win at the 2017 Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open on the weekend.
The now Adelaide resident broke a 13 year drought with what was his 14th professional win in a long golfing career highlighted by his runner-up finish at the 2003 US Open.
Playing at Royal Perth Golf Club, Leaney fired rounds of 64, 71, 69, 69 for a tournament total 15-under 273 to secure a one shot victory over Callan O’Reilly, who missed a six foot birdie putt on the 18th to force a playoff.
“It’s been a long day; it’s been a long 13 years I think since I won a golf tournament,” said Leaney, whose last win was at the same event in 2004.
“I just tried to stay in the moment all week this week. That’s probably as good as I’d done for a long time. I never got ahead of myself and stuck to the task. Good things happen when you do that,” he said.
“I wasn’t watching the leaderboard, I was just trying to play the golf course the best way that I can. I made a bad swing on 14 and it didn’t hurt me because he (O’Reilly) made bogey as well.
“It’s always hard to win golf tournaments, I’ve won a lot and it still doesn’t get any easier. You still go through the same emotions. I was very nervous the last four or five holes.”
Having a strong affinity with the tournament, Leaney has now won the title six times, equalling Terry Gale for the most victories.
“It’s been my favourite tournament. It was the first one that I played in. I think I won the Terry Gale Cup as the leading amateur about four times, to win it six times is great,” Leaney added.
“I know I tie Terry but I think a couple of wins that I had were only 36 holers so it probably needs an asterisk next to my name and Terry can have the six out by himself.
Leaney’s turned pro in 1992 and has four European Tour titles under his belt as well as now eight PGA Tour of Australasia titles.
Rapidly approaching 50 he has been eyeing a tilt at the senior tours and believes his Perth win is vindication for his hard work off the course.
“My fitness guys back at SA Redbacks, Tim Nielsen, really kicked me up the butt a couple of years ago and said if you want to turn 50 with a head of steam you’ve got to get into the gym and work out,” Leaney said.
“It’s paid off. It’s nice when you do the work and you suffer in the rain and good things happen when you work hard.”
“It’s just validation that I can still win golf tournaments. I haven’t really done that well in the last five or six years. I did play well a few times last year but was never really in contention.
“It’s just nice to win again.”
At 14-under the card New South Welshman Callan O’Reilly finished outright runner-up with West Australian Michael Sim two shots back and outright third after shooting a final round 66.
2015 WA Open Champion Daniel Fox ended his 2017 campaign outright fourth after spending the year competing on the European Challenge Tour.
From Perth the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia now heads east to The Brisbane Golf Club for the Isuzu Queensland Open to be played from 26-29 October.