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Journeys: Blake Windred - Australian Golf Digest Journeys: Blake Windred - Australian Golf Digest

Why turning professional pre-COVID was a blessing and how he came to be signed by music megastar Niall Horan’s management company, Modest! Golf

Honestly, signing with my management company when I did, if I didn’t take that leap – make that decision – I wouldn’t have been given these opportunities to play off invites on the Challenge Tour. I wouldn’t have been able to go to tour school, so that’s another couple of years of not playing overseas on a tour. Now, just because of that decision and the decision to come to Europe, I’ve got a Challenge Tour card for next year and I’m working on making that a main tour card. It’s funny how these decisions are paving the way for my future. 

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I was obviously talking to a few other management companies and these decisions can have a massive impact and accelerate my career. Modest was the perfect formula, I felt, with the opportunities they were able to 100 per cent guarantee me. Ultimately that’s what it came down to. The team – from Niall to Mark, Jack and Katy – it’s just such a great family feel.

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Once I’d signed, that’s when Niall reached out and just said how pumped he was to have me be a part of the team. Modest gave me an invite to play their main tour event in Ireland in July and after the tournament we were able to sit down and have a couple of Guinnesses. It’s so crazy how he’s such a great artist and he’s obviously made a name for himself in that regard, but he’s such a normal person that just loves golf. Ultimately that’s what the management company looks like. It’s built off a combination of being good at golf but, more importantly, being a good person. Representing your family, your management company, yourself, in the right manner.

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I’m actually incredibly lucky I turned pro when I did (in November 2019). I know you could say that it wasn’t ideal, but if I didn’t turn pro when I did, just before COVID, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the European Tour qualifying school, I wouldn’t have been able to make the most out of my opportunities from my results as an amateur and my amateur ranking. I wouldn’t have been able to sign with Titleist, Modest maybe – all these little opportunities that I took advantage of. If I’d stayed amateur just a little bit longer, you never know, they may have disappeared.

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In saying that, the competitive side of it for the whole of 2020 just wasn’t what I envisioned. I had a chat with my coach, Gary Barter, in the middle of COVID and it gave me time to really double down and work as hard as I could on my game. On all aspects of my life, to be honest. Learning, reading books, listening to podcasts, trying to just better myself in all areas of life.

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I saw the Ashleigh Barty quote after she won Wimbledon that said, “It’s more important to be a good person than a good tennis player.” That really resonated with me because my uncle and a few people close to me have always said that kind of thing, that golf isn’t who I am, it’s just what I do. Just because you’re a good golfer doesn’t mean you rule the world and when you’re playing bad, it can work that way as well. It doesn’t define you as a person; it’s just what you’re doing.

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I always talk to my mind coach, John Novak, about weathering the storm. Ultimately, it’s always going to get better. As hard as it can be to look at it like that sometimes – because even in Australia the opportunities for golf aren’t there at the moment – but the good news is, it’s going to get better. If you can weather the storm then you’ll be able to reap the rewards in the future, because it’s always going to get better.

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Not long after I was born, Dad was looking after me all day and watching replays of the golf that afternoon. He had me in a cot, in front of the TV in our lounge room, watching Tiger. Mum says that when she got home Dad had one of his irons out and was rubbing the grip on my newborn hand. Mum was like, “Get that away from the baby!” And Dad says, “I’m just getting him warmed up.”

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I lived right behind the golf range at Cardiff in Newcastle and ever since I can remember, my dad was taking me over to the range with this tiny, cut-down, wooden 5-wood. I posted a video on Instagram when I turned professional of me just slogging that 5-wood. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t hitting a golf ball around, whether that was at the golf course or the house. I’ve always been a golfer and that’s literally all thanks to my dad.

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I felt like I was good at soccer – I loved soccer, I loved the team aspect – but at the same time I was a pretty good golfer at age 10 or 11. I qualified for the New South Wales Open as a 13-year-old and that was definitely a little light-bulb moment where I’m like, Wow. It was such a shock to me, doing TV interviews and all the newspaper interviews, articles and stuff and being on the news. That’s what started me to think, This is what I’m going to do. There’s no doubt in my mind.

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I was in the carpark at Newcastle Golf Club before the event, doing an interview with Fox Sports and it just didn’t even feel real. Then I realised I had illegal grooves on my wedges, because I was just playing amateur golf and had never had to worry about it. I had to get these wedges sent from Sydney to use for the tournament. Also, because I just always wore shorts, I had only one or two pairs of long pants so I had to wear my suit pants during the tournament.

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Most times when I walk down the fairway I still feel like that 13-year-old playing my first professional event. My swing feels nearly the exact same; it’s just that my body has developed and I feel more comfortable with the swing I have now.

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I can win one tournament? That’s literally the easiest question anyone can ask me. That’s the Masters, the green jacket. From since I can remember – until Adam Scott won in 2013 – my dad’s said, “You’re going to be the first Aussie to ever win it. No one else could do it.” That kind of attitude. I don’t watch much golf, but that’s the only tournament I really do enjoy watching. A lot of people say the British Open but I can’t ever go past playing the same course, Augusta, for the green jacket on just the most perfect greens in the world. That’s 110 per cent the tournament that I would most like to win. Then, in close second, the Australian Open. – with Tony Webeck

Feature photo by  GETTY IMAGES: octavio passos