Stephen Leaney has returned to defend his West Australian Open title in what could be his swansong at the tournament.
Leaney, 49, has his eyes set on the lucrative PGA Tour Champions in the US, but first he is eager to defend the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open at Mount Lawley Golf Club this week.
“In all reality, this is probably going to be my last WA Open. I turn 50 in March next year so I’ll be on the ‘fat belly’ old boys tour. Hopefully, I can go out on a nice note this year,” said Leaney, who won his third WA Open title at Mount Lawley in 1997.
“The last time I won here (Mt Lawley) was in ’97, so it has probably changed a bit since then. But I’ve got history here, it suits my game because it’s tight – almost like Royal Perth.
“It’s really just a second-shot golf course; it’s not about how far you hit it. Hopefully, the breeze gets up and it will [reward] good iron play. It plays to my strengths, so as long as I keep my game in order I would expect to have a chance on Sunday.”
Coming to Perth fresh from finishing fourth at the Victorian PGA Championship in his last start on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, Leaney clearly still has what it takes to tee it up with the young players. A case in point, the youngest player in the field this week, Jordan Jung, was born in 2002, the year Leaney won his fourth WA Open title.
“I turned pro in ’92, so there are not a lot of guys playing this week who were born then,” Leaney said. “Age is just a number. My game is still good enough to compete. I played well in the Vic PGA a couple of weeks ago against the young kids, so it’s just nice to come back home and nice to come to a course I’ve won at before.”
The WA Open is an event close to Leaney’s heart. It’s his state open, he made his pro debut here in 1992 and has his name recorded on the Roy Paxton Bowl six times. If he successfully defends his title this week, Leaney would eclipse Terry Gale as the most prolific champion of the tournament.
“It has been an event that is always close to my heart. It was the first pro event that I played at Lake Karrinyup,” Leaney added.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing this tournament; to have a chance to win seven would be nice. But I am not quite sure how I feel about that, there was a couple that I won that were joined with the Nedlands Masters. But my name is on the trophy six times, so it’s great.”
The Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open Championship tees off tomorrow with the winner decided on Sunday. In addition to the winner’s share of the $100,000 prize purse, the champion will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points and be fully exempt onto the PGA Tour of Australasia until the end of the 2019 season.