[PHOTO: Kirsty Wrice/PGA of Australia]
Three of Australia’s most highly credentialled amateurs have joined the professional ranks ahead of this week’s Queensland PGA Championship at Nudgee Golf Club in Brisbane.
New South Welshman Jeffrey Guan [centre], South Australian Jack Buchanan [left] and Victorian Max Charles [right] will join New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori in making their debuts as professionals this week on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia.
Guan and Buchanan were both members of Australia’s Eisenhower Trophy team that finished tied for second in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago and played the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne Golf Club last week.
As fellow Victorian Jasper Stubbs prevailed in a playoff to book his place in the Masters and The Open, Charles finished as the next best Aussie in a tie for fourth.
Charles will be the first to tee off his professional career at 6:52am AEST on Thursday with Buchanan (11:06am) and Guan (11:56am) to follow in the afternoon wave.
With the chase for Order of Merit honours now well and truly underway, PGA of Australia Tour development manager Kim Felton is thrilled to see the trio begin their professional careers on home soil.
“Jeff, Jack and Max have all had wonderful amateur careers and we’re excited to see what lies ahead of them as professionals,” Felton said.
“We have worked hard to develop the pathways that will give our best players the best opportunity to advance to the international stage. David Micheluzzi showed last year what is possible with a strong season on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia and I’ve got no doubt these three will have their eyes on something similar to kick-start their careers.”
Guan was first thrust into golf’s public sphere when he won the club championship at Bexley Golf Club in Sydney at just 14 years of age.
He won the Australian Junior Boys championship in 2021 and 2022 and represented the International team at the Junior Presidents Cup and won the AJGA Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in 2022. With three top-10 finishes on the 2022-2023 PGA Tour of Australasia, Guan finished top of the Future Tour Order of Merit, guaranteeing a tour category once he turned pro.
“I had some really good results in the starts that I was given and I felt like if I could just match up my game to that then obviously I can take that to a higher level and more opportunities would open up,” Guan said.
“That’s how I thought of it and it just clicked in me. It was just that one moment. It wasn’t a thought process over months, it just clicked and all of a sudden I just wanted to play in all the events and try and win as much as I can.”
Based at Glenelg Golf Club, Buchanan went within a whisker of claiming the Australian Amateur crown in 2022, losing in a playoff to West Australian Connor McKinney.
He was the South Australian Amateur champion that year and earlier this year finished second at the Pacific Coast Amateur in the US, edged at the second playoff hole by American Tyson Shelley.
In a somewhat perfect way to end his amateur career, Buchanan birdied four of his final five holes in a closing round of four-under 68 to lift the Australian team into a share of second at the Eisenhower Trophy.
“They were definitely two teams that I wanted to make before I turned pro and I’m pretty happy that I did them,” Buchanan said.
“Last year at the Vic Open I was tied for the lead, up there for the first two rounds. That showed me that my game can compete. I may not have finished as well as I wanted to, but then I was thinking that I could turn pro in the next year or two. Just right now worked out as the best time.”
Charles has spent the majority of his time in the US in recent years. After two years at Midland Community College in Texas – where he finished 15th at the 2019 NJCAA National Championship – Charles joined the golf team at Boise State University in Idaho ahead of the 2020-2021 college season.
In his final year at Boise State, Charles set the school records for 54-hole score, 36-hole score and set the third-lowest single round score while winning medalist honours at the Ping Cougar Classic, shooting 68-63-68—197 (19-under). It was that event, in particular, that convinced Charles that turning pro was a very real possibility.
“It was in the back of my mind throughout the year but then I had a big win in March in Utah where I broke a couple of records,” said Charles, who graduated in May with a Business Management degree.
“That gave myself the approval that I can actually do this and see what comes from it.”
The Queensland PGA Championship tees off on the Kurrai course at Nudgee Golf Club from 6:25am AEST Thursday. The final two rounds will be broadcast live on both Foxtel and Kayo from 2:30pm Saturday and 12:30pm Sunday, AEDT.
Home club: The Australian Golf Club
Coaches: Glenn Whittle and Gary Barter
Amateur highlights: Silver medallist, Eisenhower Trophy (2023); Cameron Smith Scholarship recipient (2023); AJGA Junior Players champion (2022); Junior Presidents Cup team member (2022); Australian Boys Junior champion (2021 and 2022).
Home club: Glenelg Golf Club
Coach: Adrian Wickstein
Amateur highlights: Silver medallist, Eisenhower Trophy (2023); runner-up Pacific Coast Amateur (2023); South Australian Amateur champion (2022); tied second Australian Amateur Championship (2022).
Home club: Kingston Heath Golf Club
Amateur highlights: T-4 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (2023); runner-up Bandon Dunes Invitational (2023); won Ping Cougar Classic (2023); quarter-finalist at the British Amateur (2022); Won UC Santa Barbra Collegiate (2021).