From working-class roots to world-class swings, this Brisbane prodigy has his sights set on the big stage.

My first taste of golf was probably not what you would expect. Growing up in Ipswich, golf is not the most popular sport. I played a tonne of sports growing up, and rugby league is everything in that part of Queensland. Every part of Queensland, really. But especially in Ipswich. One day, I can’t even remember why, but we went to the driving range as a family. No one in my family played golf, but we went along to have a hit of a few balls and I really enjoyed hitting the ball as hard as I could. It was difficult. At first, I sucked at golf but I’d hit a good one every now and then. I was hooked by the challenge. I decided to take it up as a sport and when I first started, Mum started with me. We joined Oxley Golf Club in Ipswich before we moved out to Brookwater and we’ve been there ever since. 

Brookwater, being designed by Greg Norman to be a brutal test, has made me the golfer I am now. When I was young playing there, it was so challenging because I couldn’t hit it far. I learned how to hit it straight, how to hit it hard and how to hit it out of trees, because there are so many there. It’s also a great golf community. There are some great members and excellent practice facilities. It’s been important in my development.

A stroke of good luck happened once at Brookwater, too. One day, when I was about 10 years of age, the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) was there having a state team session. It was raining, so the teams went inside. I was just a junior who loved golf, so I kept practising; I was hitting balls out of a practice bunker in the rain while both teams were upstairs in the clubhouse waiting for the downpour to finish. Grant Field and a couple of QAS coaches came out and watched me hit bunker shots. I got talking with Grant and decided to get some lessons with him. I improved pretty quickly, so I started taking golf more seriously. I’ve been with Grant ever since.

It’s well known that Grant has also coached Cam Smith from a young age. It’s so cool, not only because I’ve been able to establish a friendship and learn from Cam as a fellow student, but also because I know my coach has taken a talented player and coached them all the way to the PGA Tour. I want to be like Cam, and this is the best way to go about it.

It’s funny, Grant actually hooked up a game with Cam for me on the first day Cam had turned pro, in 2013. I think it was the first time I ever played with Cam and I must’ve been 11 or so. Grant organised for us to play nine holes at Royal Queensland. For me it was an eye opener. I got to experience Cam’s first day as a professional and see what a tour player looked like up close.

In 2018, Cam was good enough to fly myself and Jed Morgan over to Florida from Australia to learn from him, play about four rounds with him and stay at his house. When I found out this was happening, there were no words to describe the feeling. We were going to get a paid trip to go over to stay at Cam’s house and learn from him. During that trip, I realised how similar Cam and I are, both on and off the course. The biggest thing I took away was his ability to switch off when he is not at the golf course. He is still a person, after all. When he’s at a tournament or working on his game, he’s there to get better and learn. But outside of that he is really good at switching off. I also realised just how good he is. We played a couple of games at TPC Sawgrass, where he practises and plays. But we also played a few other courses in the Sawgrass area. I think it was Pablo Creek Golf Club where he shot 10-under par off the tips without even trying. 

I have been exposed to professional tournaments from a young age. I believe the first professional event I played in was the 2016 Queensland PGA, when I was about 13 or 14. It’s been an awesome introduction to the big stage. I can’t thank Golf Australia and Golf Queensland enough for giving me those experiences. It’s probably only the past two years I’ve been, in a sense, ready to play that level of golf. I was thrown into it all quite young. Now I’m in the shape to compete, because a lot of work has gone in over the years. 

I’ve been a huge Rickie Fowler fan since I was a young age and he’s actually become a bit of a mentor. When I was quite young, I lived next door to a Cobra-Puma rep. He was my idol and Rickie was his favourite player. In 2013, at the Australian PGA Championship when Rickie played on the Gold Coast, I got to caddie for a guy who was playing in Rickie’s pro-am group. I ended up getting talking to Rickie a lot about golf. The Cobra-Puma team went out to dinner with him later that night and Rickie invited me to come out to dinner with them. I couldn’t believe what was happening. We’ve stayed in contact. It’s not like I talk to him a whole lot. I have his number and I message him here and there. But to have someone like Rickie give advice is pretty cool considering what he has been able to do in golf. 

In 2016, I played good enough golf to win the New Zealand Amateur at Royal Wellington Golf Club. That was a great moment. That whole event was something special because I had my dad’s whole family there. It was the first time I had won in front of family. Where it took me was pretty cool, too. I got a start in the NZ Open for winning that. I also got quite a bit of exposure that maybe I wasn’t ready for. But I’ve been able to learn so much from being in positions that maybe I shouldn’t have been in at certain ages. I’ve come out the other side a better golfer.

Fast forward to 2019 and it was a tough year for me, personally. I had elbow surgery. So when I won the Port Phillip Amateur at the end of 2019, that was pretty special. If you had seen me play after the operation and before Port Phillip, it was horrendous. But it reinstated my confidence and last year I was able to win the Queensland Amateur for a second time, the Port Phillip Amateur again and then this year I won the Australian Amateur. It all stems from that 2019 Port Phillip win.

As I near the end of my amateur career and start to make plans for professional golf, winning the Aussie Amateur ay Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide is like the final confirmation I needed that I can do this whole thing. My plan has always been to turn pro at the end of 2021. Before the week of the Aussie Amateur, I told my boss at work I needed some time throughout this year to practise and get serious with my golf because I am turning pro. I work two jobs; at Brookwater in outside services and also as a labourer for an air conditioning company. It felt good to start vocalising my plans and then back it up with a big win. When the PGA of Australia announced its TPS (The Players Series) events earlier in the year, I was excited. I played well enough to tie for third at the Bonnie Doon event hosted by Braith Anasta, and backed that up with an 18th in the Queensland Open and 33rd in the New South Wales Open. All pro events, which were great for my self-belief. I’ve always known I’m capable, but sometimes you need to physically prove it to yourself.

Even though I’m going to be a pro golfer, I’m still a normal, laidback Queenslander. A lot of my mates might tell you I’m an idiot [laughs]. Off the course, I love my cars. I love anything to do with fast cars, nice cars and louds cars. Anything mechanical. When I’m at home, I love hanging out with my mates and going to the pub. You can probably see the Ipswich in me from a mile away. Firstly, because of the mullet I wear. But also because I like to think of myself as a grateful person. We’re working class in Ipswich and we all know things cost money and require hard work. Regardless of how well my career might pan out, that attitude won’t change. 

2021 Australian Amateur champion
Age: 19
Home club: Brookwater Golf & Country Club