Dimitrios Papadatos was crowned the 2017 ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the Year and this week begins the first of two title defences in 2018 when the Oates Vic Open tees off tomorrow at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links.

Papadatos began his 2017 season with a two-shot victory at Thirteenth Beach at last year’s Vic Open before he won his third professional title at the TX Civil & Logistics WA PGA Championship in Kalgoorlie, leading to him being named the Player of the Year during the Greg Norman Medal Dinner at the Australian PGA Championship.

“I was very happy to receive that. I obviously had a good start to the year with a couple of wins and a good finish in New Zealand,” Papadatos said. “It wasn’t the back end of the season that I was hoping for, but I’ve done a bit of work in the past month so hopefully I can turn it around this week.”

After a busy international schedule playing predominately on the European Challenge Tour as well as events on the Asian Tour, the 26-year-old took some well-deserved time off before beginning his 2018 season this week.

“I’ve been pretty relaxed. I haven’t been playing the best. I did a bit of fishing over Christmas – hopefully that will help me out,” Papadatos joked.

“I well and truly switched off for a couple of weeks, but the past month or so has just been trying to sort everything out in my full game, a bit of exercise and some more practice, just trying to iron out the creases.”

The New South Welshman is no stranger to defending one of the bigger events on the PGA Tour of Australasia, having his first professional victory at the 2014 ISPS Handa New Zealand Open. Papadatos says being a defending champion doesn’t mean much when the next tournament rolls around, particularly this early in the season.

“There are some expectations given I won last year and that sort of stuff, but I don’t really worry about that too much. Everyone starts off the same, especially this early in the year. Each week is a fresh week.”

The Vic Open signals Papadatos’ first competitive hitout of the year and while he admittedly says he hasn’t hit peak form, he’s looking forward to seeing how he measures up prior to a run of five tournaments on the local circuit.

“It’ll be good to see where my game is at this week. I didn’t have any smaller events leading in to this week and this one’s a pretty big one to start off with so you want to be pretty sharp straight up,” Papadatos said. “It’s a tough field this week and tough courses, but hopefully my game is on.”

The Oates Vic Open is one of the more unique professional golf tournaments in the world with both the men and women playing on the same courses in the same week. This year the tournament’s growing popularity has seen the prizemoney increased to $1.3 million to be split equally between the men and women.

“It’s great and with the increase in prizemoney the tournament’s only going to get bigger and bigger,” Papadatos said. “There are grandstands out here this year so I’m expecting some pretty big crowds, which is always nice as a player. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Oates Vic Open will be played from February 1-4 at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links with a field of 144 players vying for a prize purse of $650,000. The winner will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points and become fully exempt on to the PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of this season plus a further two years.

Those unable to make the trip to the Bellarine Peninsula will still be able to watch the weekend’s action via live stream through PGA TV.