Former NRL player and now Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin will join the field at the 2019 Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship presented by Toowoomba Regional Council at City Golf Club after receiving an invitation to play in his first ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia tournament.
Having played for Australia and the Queensland State of Origin team, Ikin’s career amassed 150 games across three clubs including the Brisbane Broncos with whom he won a premiership in 2000.
During his glittering NRL career, Ikin’s golf prowess did not go unnoticed with the 41-year-old known for hitting the golf course in his downtime.
Ikin entered discussions with the PGA of Australia about the potential of playing in a PGA Tour of Australasia event in March last year, however needed to reduce his handicap of 7 to less then 2.4 to receive the invitation.
After working with PGA teaching professional Matthew Guyatt, Ikin reached the required handicap limit of 2.4 over the festive break after several low rounds, including a score of three-under par at Indooroopilly Golf Club late last year, bringing his handicap down to 1.7.
“My role with Fox Sports has fortunately allowed me to play golf quite frequently over the years. In recent years I have really enjoyed getting out there and having a hit and my game has improved a lot,” Ikin said.
“I’ve become a member of Indooroopilly Golf Club and Golf Central at Brisbane Airport and with such fantastic facilities at both venues I have never needed much convincing to get some practice in.”
To help him reach the required handicap, Ikin believed the best way to improve his score was to work with a PGA professional.
“I knew I couldn’t get there on my own so I linked up with Matt Guyatt and it was the smartest thing I did,” Ikin said. “I encourage everyone to seek out their local PGA professional because quality advice is critical if you hope to improve your game.”
As a former winner on the PGA Tour of Australasia and having competed in the Queensland PGA Championship many times before, Guyatt praised the determination of the former Origin great to reduce his handicap.
“When Ben first came to me it was evident he had the skills but needed to learn how to manage his game better,” Guyatt said.
“Ben is an amazing athlete so he picked up a lot of what we needed to work on relatively quickly. When we changed his practice to more results-based to feel pressure similar to that experienced in a tournament environment, his scores really started to improve.
“Ben and I had three goals we were working towards and getting his handicap to 2.4 is just one of them. Now the focus will be on getting to scratch over the coming month while maintaining our goal of making the cut at the Queensland PGA Championship.”
It’s a lofty goal, with Ikin having to tee it up against some of the most talented up-and-coming professionals in the country.
“There are so many talented professional golfers in Australia and now I am going head-to-head with them,” Ikin continued. “I have set myself a big challenge to make the cut, I know it won’t be an easy task, but I am taking this very seriously and I will give it my best shot.”
Ikin isn’t the first former NRL player to tee it up in a PGA Tour of Australasia tournament. Braith Anasta teed it up in the 2011 New South Wales PGA Championship at Wollongong Golf Club where he missed the cut shooting rounds of 78 and 82. Paul Vautin also contested a New South Wales Open last decade.
The $150,000 Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship will be staged from February 21-24. This is the 10th anniversary of the tournament being hosted at City Golf Club.