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Journeys: ‘The King Of Morocco’s Flying Us All In His Jet’ - Australian Golf Digest Journeys: ‘The King Of Morocco’s Flying Us All In His Jet’ - Australian Golf Digest

After 20 years of juggling PE teaching with pro golf, Aussie veteran Michael Wright has hit the big time by securing his card on the lucrative PGA Tour Champions

Getting my first handicap was a weird story. My dad, Gary, is a PGA professional and taught me on a school oval near where I used to live. I wasn’t allowed on a golf course for six months. My first score on a golf course was 78 at Victoria Park in Brisbane and my first handicap was 12. It was a weird sort of way to get into it, I suppose.

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By the time I was 17 I was off scratch and I just said, ‘Yep, I want to be a golf pro.’ The ‘old man’ said to go down and work in the cart barn and Mum said, “No frigging way you’re going to do that! You’re going to university.” I went to uni for primary school PE teaching and taught PE for about four years. I decided I was good enough to turn pro at 25, which is pretty late, thinking about it now.

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I wagged a lot of uni classes and played a lot of golf. I played against one of my real good mates, Mark McDonald. He was a member at Indooroopilly, I was a member of Brisbane and we used to alternate between the two tracks. We’d play 72 holes a day… we just loved it.

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I turned pro at the end of 1999 but didn’t get a real good number at tour school. There were 13 events at that time and I pre-qualified on the Monday for 11 of them. I just wanted it that bad that I managed to produce on the Monday and get through 11 out of those 13. And then, I only made one cut. It was at the Canon Challenge at Castle Hill, so it was a struggle.

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I can’t say there was ever a year between then and now when I thought I was close to getting my big break, but there were multiple times when I was one week from going the other way and giving it up. There were at least half a dozen times when we just had zero money in the bank and then, somehow, I just clutched up and I’d win a car or I’d have a hole-in-one or something good happened. Not a lot of money, but enough money to keep the wheels ticking over.

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I won an Alfa Romeo at the Australian Fourball Championship at Royal Pines. I owed money to my mum – we had basically zero in the bank and I had money coming out for the mortgage. I had some kids’ school fees and then I go and win a car. It’s like, Holy hell. That came at just the perfect time.

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When there’s been a break in the schedule, I’ve been able to teach. The teaching saved me. I just look at the golf schedule and then go, OK, I’m home, then I’m coming in. That’s kept the family alive, financially.

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I’d come home from missing three cuts or four cuts and my wife, Jo, would say, “What are you doing? I think it’s time.” That’s happened regularly and somehow – I don’t even know how – I’ve convinced her to keep going. We’re not there yet, but this is an opportunity now that I can go, “There you go. That’s why I kept going.”

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I’ve been thinking about the Champions tour for 10 years. I could not fast-forward time quick enough. Now I’m trying to pause it because I’m obviously the youngest of the lot over there.

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I played six out of seven weeks in Australia leading into First Stage of Q-School and played well. That gave me the confidence to go into that first round and shoot seven-under. Looking back, that probably saved me a lot of mental energy for Final Stage because I just cruised that first stage.

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I’m 112 metres out in the desert with rocks and whatnot, hitting my third shot on the final hole at Final Stage. I had two thoughts going through my head. First, I’ve got to make perfect contact because if I hit a millimetre behind it, it’ll go 50 yards and I’ll look like a mug. Second, there’s water 12 feet left of the flag so I cannot let this clubface close down through impact. I picked pitching wedge and I just thought, Keep it down out of the wind and hit it at this bent-over tree 10 feet right of the flag. I make the swing and it comes out dead straight at the hole. I did pull it – I will say I pulled it – but it went dead straight at the hole. It took one bounce and then went in on the second bounce. My caddie, Guy, went ballistic. I went ballistic. It was shock. Guy collected my club and says, “You’re in! You’re in!”

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I don’t get too starstruck. Having said that, though, our first bloody event, we’re all on a private jet to Morocco. The King of Morocco’s flying us all over in his jet. I might be sitting next to Bernhard Langer or something. That’d be cool.

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I’ve never been fully exempt on a tour where I’ve got a full schedule where I can just go three weeks on, one off, three on, one off. It’s the perfect schedule, really; they look after the old boys. It’s going to be a full year of golf on amazing golf courses and getting looked after like I never have before. 

Getty images: Jennifer Perez