There’s more than a Mars Bar at stake this week.
Days after Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson faced off for a $US9 million prize purse, Jake McLeod and Anthony Quayle will resume a long-standing rivalry that was at its fiercest during their later years at high school.
Back then a Mars Bar they couldn’t afford was deemed a rich reward. This week a life-changing opportunity to play one of the world’s most lucrative tours goes on the line.
Room-mates at the famed Hills International School that also put the finishing touches on the games of Jason Day and Adam Scott, McLeod and Quayle are currently first and third on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit heading into the final event of the year, this week’s Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast.
Co-sanctioned with the European Tour, a win would earn either of them exemption onto one of the world’s richest tours while the player crowned the 2018 Order of Merit winner will also earn European Tour status for the next 12 months.
It’s a far cry from their high school days just a few years ago, but according to Quayle those early battles on the fairways had all the intensity that will be on display over 72 holes this week.
“At high school we didn’t have any money so we probably played for a Mars Bar here and there that we would somehow get for free out of the pro shop,” Quayle recalled ahead of his Australian PGA Championship debut.
“It was pretty even out there,” added McLeod. “We used to try and not go head-to-head too much; we’d try and take on all the other kids and take all their money. We used to take a bit of their money too which was good.”
“Nowadays we might go out and have a $20 game, something like that,” Quayle said. “I played with him at Royal Queensland, which is his home course, and we played off the back tees. I think the course record might be six-under and I shot four-under, which I thought was pretty good, and he went out and shot seven-under and got me by three. He got my $20 that day.”
“I was pretty happy with that. It was nice to get a free steak burger out of him,” McLeod joked.
Hailing from Townsville and Gove in the Northern Territory, respectively, before arriving at Hills, McLeod and Quayle have both enjoyed breakout seasons as professionals. McLeod recently recorded his first win as a professional at the AV Jennings NSW Open while Quayle retained his playing privileges on the Japan Golf Tour after registering five top-25 finishes that included a runner-up at The Crowns in his rookie year.
Now a Gold Coast local, Quayle would love nothing more than to emulate McLeod’s recent triumph at Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club and record his first win as a professional in front of family and friends, using his good mate’s success partly as motivation.
“Firstly, I’m pumped for him. I couldn’t be happier for him,” said Quayle, who along with Aaron Wilkin stayed around to shower McLeod with champagne on the 18th green to help celebrate his NSW Open win.
“You see one of your good mates that excited and that happy and achieve something that’s pretty hard to achieve so I was just really excited for him. Afterwards you see that he’s winning and you have the golfer in you that wants to be doing the same thing.
“I think it’s a pretty healthy thing to have. There’s a bit of one-upmanship so I think a win this week might just clip him and then he would probably be feeling the same thing moving forward and trying to one-up me again down the track.”
Currently $14,491 ahead of second-placed Daniel Nisbet on the Order of Merit and $45,549 clear of third-placed Quayle, in the space of two tournaments McLeod has quickly gone from the hunter to the hunted. The 24-year-old shot 66 in the final round of the Emirates Australian Open to finish third and knows that a successful week at Royal Pines has the potential to significantly impact his career.
“I had a look (at the Order of Merit) after the Aussie Open to see what was going on but I tried not to look at it after that. Everyone knows what’s going on there,” McLeod said.
“Hopefully it doesn’t change what I do this week. I’ve got full status on the Asian Tour next year, which is good, but you still feel a bit of pressure around the opportunity to get a European Tour card. The top two spots get the two WGC events as well, which is obviously a bonus.
“There’s a few Mars Bars on the line this week that’s for sure.”