Past heartaches including a Moonah Links near-miss are driving local hope Terry Pilkadaris to earn a breakthrough ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia title at this week’s Victorian PGA Championship.

To be conducted concurrently with the Celebrity Amateur Challenge, the Victorian PGA is the first of two consecutive events at Moonah Links, the Legends course and Open course both in use this week with the Open course assuming sole hosting rights for the Moonah Classic next week.

It was on the Open course 12 years ago that Pilkadaris came up just short at the Moonah Classic that for three years was co-sanctioned with the secondary US Nationwide Tour.

A three-time winner on the Asian Tour – two of which came in consecutive weeks in 2004 – Pilkadaris has regularly featured on Australasian leaderboards without ever ending the week as the one on top.

In 2011 he was runner-up in three consecutive events on the Australasian Tour, but it was the 2018 New Zealand Open that cuts deepest.

Taking a five-stroke lead into Sunday, a final round 70 wasn’t enough to hold off a stunning 62 by Queenslander Daniel Nisbet, a defeat that remains difficult for the 47-year-old to stomach to this day.

“The New Zealand Open hurt the most,” Pilkadaris admitted. “I was leading by five and just didn’t get it done on Sunday. That one hurt the most out of the lot.

“I’ve had four or five runner-ups in Australia as well, there was three in a row at one stage back in 2011.

“I know I can win, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. The putting was holding me back so now it looks like we’ve turned the corner with the putting.”

Ahead of a two-week stint at Moonah Links, Pilkadaris also reflected on the 2009 Moonah Classic when he finished tied for fourth, four strokes behind fellow Victorian Alistair Presnell.

“I regret two tee shots. One tee shot on Saturday and one tee shot on Sunday, that cost me the event there,” he added.

Tied for third prior to the matchplay section of the recent Gippsland Super 6 event, Pilkadaris returned the next best score to amateur Elvis Smylie’s eight-under 63 last Sunday to finish tied for seventh at The Players Series Victoria event.

With the rust knocked off and an adjusted putting stroke that elusive first win may be closer than ever before.

“You’ve got to knock the rust off first. We played a couple of pro-ams and I felt like my wedge play and pitching wasn’t that great so I contacted Tim Wood,” Pilkadaris said of Wood, who was named Coach of the Year at the Victorian PGA Vocational Awards in December.

“He gave me a suggestion and then all of a sudden the pitching and chipping started to come really good. It was just a matter of connecting the dots with the putting which we’ve done and off we go.

“I went to claw putting inside 10 feet and that’s made a big difference. I started that [at the Gippsland Super 6].

“After the first hole at Yallourn, I had a 10-footer left-to-right and hit it off the toe and it went left and I thought, I’m over this. I went to the claw and was rolling it nicely.”

Brad Kennedy is backing up from his victory at The Players Series and there are seven former Vic PGA champions in the field, including 2019 champion Campbell Rawson, Aaron Pike (2018), Damien Jordan (2017), two-time winner Ashley Hall (2007 and 2016), Aaron Townsend (2015), David McKenzie (2013) and Steven Jeffress (2006).

Other former Victorian PGA champions include Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Bruce Devlin, American Lanny Wadkins, Rodger Davis, Peter Senior, Stuart Appleby and Marc Leishman.

Celebrities in the Celebrity Amateur Challenge field include Dale Thomas, Tiffany Cherry, Gary Buckenarra, Keith Schleiger and Sam McClure.