The great coaches know a good swing when they see one.

They also know to leave well enough alone rather than impart advice that may serve to confuse their player rather than make them better.

Throughout all his work with the likes of Steve Elkington, Michael Campbell and Jan Stephenson that would enable them to become Major champions, PGA Immortal and Life Member, Alex Mercer delivered a simple philosophy to the golf swing and trusted the player to deliver.

It took just one meeting with Sydney teenager Austin Bautista for Mercer to deliver a pearl of wisdom that the now 24-year-old continues to use to forge his way on the European Tour.

After spending two years working around the globe with humanitarian aid organisations, Bautista returned to golf at the start of 2020 and quickly began to re-establish the credentials that saw him selected in the NSW State team and take out the 2016 NSW Amateur.

After recording a handful of wins on mini tours in the US, Bautista was given the opportunity to play in the South African Open on the European Tour last December, carrying with him the golden nugget of advice shared by Mercer years earlier.

“I saw Alex Mercer once and he gave me probably the greatest golf lesson I ever received,” Bautista recalled.

“He changed my grip a little bit and said, ‘You’ve got the mechanics to play well, all you need to do is play more.’”

A two-year stint without touching a club the year after turning professional was not exactly what Mercer had in mind but Bautista believes the self-belief instilled in him by Mercer, Sydney-based PGA Professional Shane Puckett and his father has been key in taking his game to a higher level.

“I had another coach who I saw three or four times by the name of Shane Puckett and he was very similar,” Bautista added.

“He said, ‘I love the way you’re playing, I love the way you’re swinging, just keep doing the same thing and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.’ Those were the type of guys that I really liked and my Dad is that way as well. Always telling me that I’ve got everything I need to make it.”

Based at Bonnie Doon Golf Club at the time, PGA Professional Puckett recognised the talent and rare confidence within the diminutive teenager so when Bautista approached him in 2015 for assistance suggested only minor adjustments.

“His technique was already exceptional. When you looked at the basic fundamentals of his swing they were all really, really good,” Puckett explained.

“The main things we worked on were a couple of little things with his set-up, with his leg action – making sure he had a solid base – but for him it was knowing that he could hit the shots that he needed to hit.”

The two-year hiatus from the game has allowed Bautista to return to professional golf with greater perspective. Volunteering in Third World countries and war-torn Israel makes any bogey easier to take yet Bautista maintains the greatest of ambition.

Tied for seventh at the Austrian Open in April, Bautista wants to be a PGA TOUR winner and top-10 player in the world within the next two years. For a player with only conditional status on the Forme Tour in Canada this year they are ambitious targets but Puckett isn’t prepared to bet against it.

“I’ve never met anyone like him. When he talks it’s hard not to believe him because he just has that conviction about what he does,” added Puckett, who today splits his time between coaching at The Ridge in Sydney’s south with his role as a Sales and Support Manager with Golf Genius Software.

“The way he goes about what he does, you can’t teach that. And the more you watch him the more you realise you just have to get out of his way.

“There was just no doubt in my mind that if he kept playing he was going to make it.

“He can get to where he wants to get to because he has that belief and attitude.

“I’ve never seen a golfer like him mentally.”

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