THE Aussie Open at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney this year will mark my 20th attempt to win our national open.

I’ve had a number of close calls over the years and, outside the four Major championships, it’s the one event I covet the most. For me, like so many other golfers in Australia, I see it as ‘our Major’. Hoisting the Stonehaven Cup is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid growing up in Perth. During the 1980s and mid-’90s, I watched Greg Norman reel off his five titles, while the Americans took the trophy back to the US on more occasions than I was hoping for as a local.

My first foray competing at the Aussie Open was in 1997 at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne after Monday qualifying to make the field. In the opening two days, I played some of the best golf of my life to lead heading into the weekend, with Lee Westwood and the Great White Shark himself close behind. In unchartered waters, the final 36 holes didn’t exactly go to plan (I finished fifth), but the experience and taste for the big stage left me believing I was good enough to make a career out of the game. Eighteen tries later and I still haven’t won the bloody thing, but three runner-ups and a handful of top-10s have provided some fantastic memories.

I love the Australian Open. I realise it’s not ‘just like any other tournament’ and trying to downplay the occasion doesn’t work for me because – much like the Majors – the intensity level is more elevated than other weeks. For most golfers out there you probably have a similar feeling when your club championship or once-a-year tournament comes along. It’s ‘your Major’ and feeling nervous is absolutely OK.

The solution? Preparation. Playing well for a particular week of the year is tough to do and sometimes not within your control. However, being prepared is totally within your control. When I say prepared, some of that has to do with the physical game, such as how your swing’s shaping up or whether your putting feels under control. But mostly I’m talking about the mental game.

Firstly, I highly recommend mapping out a strategy on how you want to play the course beforehand because common sense tends to go out the window when things aren’t going smoothly in the heat of battle. Also, it’s important to be prepared when ‘interesting’ situations arise. Pre-tournament, I’d think of scenarios (good and bad) that might occur so I was ready to deal with them if they arose. For example, how would I react to making several birdies in a row? Or, what’s the plan if I throw in a double-bogey, or if I start thinking too much about the score? All these types of things happen to the best of us, but if I had already prepared for these situations then I knew how to deal with them if they came up.

So next time you’re playing a big event, be prepared for any challenge that comes along. It’ll help with those extra nerves you might be feeling and, like you, come November I’ll be preparing again to win my Major!