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Journeys: Steve Alker - Australian Golf Digest Journeys: Steve Alker - Australian Golf Digest

After taking what many think was an unconventional route, I’m finally becoming the player I knew I could be

Growing up in New Zealand, I played most sports, but soccer and cricket were probably my favourites. It wasn’t until I was about 10 or 11 years old that I really got into playing golf at the Hamilton Golf Club. My father and another club member started the junior program, which grew quickly. We had many single-figure handicappers join the group, such as David Smail, and competed against other golfers, such as Paul Tataurangi. Some of my fondest memories growing up were playing alongside my dad and in tournaments in Hamilton with such fine, young players competing individually and on teams. Cricket and soccer quickly took a backseat to golf; I really enjoyed every aspect of the golf game – the chipping, the putting and the long game.  

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I’ve always had goals and aspirations related to my golf game and as I started to get better, I began to play international amateur golf. That’s when I decided I wanted to play the game professionally. It was a natural progression for me and something I really wanted to do, but you never know what’s going to work out given the nature of the game. Obviously, I started out on the Australian Tour and Islands Tour in Fiji and Tahiti. I was privileged to play some incredible courses alongside a lot of good players on both tours. Winning early in my career on the Australian Tour gave me the confidence to want to get better and play at a higher level. I started playing in Europe and Canada, which gave me the opportunity to play with different golfers at new courses in diverse environments. I earned my card pretty early on in Europe and all of a sudden, I was playing among some of Europe’s bests – the Montgomeries, Langers and even Seve late in his career – and wow, was that exciting. 

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I knew it was time to give the PGA Tour a shot. I went and qualified for a few Korn Ferry Tour events and got a feel for playing over there. I was fortunate to win on the Korn Ferry Tour and although I was progressing, it felt slow at times and that was difficult. I just kept plugging away and persevered, which is a strength of mine. Sometimes (OK, a lot of times!) I questioned what I was doing and why I was doing it. But I knew I had to keep going. 

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There were a couple of years between the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour that were quite daunting. I felt like I was always working on my game and trying to get better while I was playing events on the tour. Looking back on it, that wasn’t the best idea. I needed to get my game into shape during the offseason and I just don’t know that I ever did that well enough. Who knows, maybe that’s why I wasn’t as successful as I wanted to be on the PGA Tour. That’s part of my journey and what’s led me to where I am today. 

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Prior to turning 50, I kept myself in the game by staying in decent shape and playing competitively on the Korn Ferry Tour. The young guys helped me stay hungry and wanting to take the next step. That’s what led me to PGA Tour Champions once I turned 50 in July. On Tuesday, August 17, I qualified for one of four spots at the Boeing Classic in Seattle, Washington, an event I would go on to win. This started my great run, but boy, where it led, who knew that was going to happen! I’m very fortunate to be where I am right now at the end of the season and carrying status into the 2022 season. It’s amazing to have a win; it’s incredible. The Boeing victory catapulted my end-of-year standing and gave me a lot of exemptions, including into Majors, which is something I will continue to build up to. I played less than half the season last year, so I’m just itching to get back out there. I do need to be smart and rest my body this offseason, but this resurgence of my game has definitely given me a second wind.  

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Are there secrets to how I got to where I am? Yeah. There are a whole bunch of contributors. Mentally, I felt like I was in a good place and I had incredible support from my family. The buzz around playing with some of the greats of the game – Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer, Phil Mickelson – was incredibly enticing to play well and ‘keep the pedal to the metal’. I grew up watching them, respecting them and now having the opportunity to play with them has been great. Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful; it’s truly been an incredible couple of months. 

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I’m looking forward to next season and I’m definitely not done yet. I’ve been quite fortunate to play a lot of different tours and play worldwide throughout my journey thus far. I was and am still fortunate to be surrounded by very supportive and patient individuals who continue to help me grow. The whole journey going back to the start has led me to this position I’m in and this exciting new chapter. It’s kept me in the game and kept me excited. And that’s been very fortunate.