For Irish rookie pro, Conor Purcell it could have been ‘now is not the time to shank it’ moments ahead of tee-off in this week’s 104th Australian Open in Sydney.
Purcell, 22, turned pro the week prior and distinguished himself well in grabbing a top-30 finish at the New South Wales Open to the west of Australia’s first city.
The now rookie Portmarnock pro was afforded an invitation to contest the event by virtue of his brilliant Australian Amateur success at the Woodlands Club in Melbourne in the third week of January.
It was Purcell’s first international title having finished runner-up in the 2018 Scottish Open Amateur while Purcell had reached the semi-finals of the 2018 British Amateur.
A fortnight after capturing the Australian Amateur, Purcell made his European Tour debut in contesting the co-sanctioned ISPS Handa Victoria Open and, to date, the only European Tour event he’s contested.
In September he capped his amateur career representing GB&I at Royal Liverpool.
Purcell was on this week’s host Australian Golf Club practice range when out of the bushfire smoke haze that has engulfed Sydney, emerged Masters champion, Sergio Garcia.
The range is tight and on an official practice day it was a case of wait for a space or like Garcia, politely ask if he could squeeze in.
And Garcia did that with the 35-times winning Spaniard parking himself to the right side of Purcell.
“I’ve not had a moment like that before and I suppose that is what will now happen when I managed to get myself on tour,” he said.
“It’s nice to be here with some of the world’s top players competing and it will be good to feel the pressure just to see how you do stack-up against them.
“I am now focussed on building on last week’s result, my first as a professional though I’m looking for a better start this week than last week.
“I just started slowly shooting 74 then played a good middle section but it was a poor finish as I bogeyed four of my last five holes to shoot two-over on a low-scoring day.
“So, to shoot a low second round score of 67 to make the cut was nice and I just built on that, and while I was not hitting the ball well all week I managed to get it around.
“The good thing too is that the only difference in comparing the amateur game to the pro game is the depth of the field while I would like to think that at the top the scoring is similar.”
Purcell was delighted to earn a first pay cheque of $AUD 2,560 or Euro 1,575.
“It was nice to get that first pay cheque with my first goal to play the weekend, so it was good to do that,” he said.
“This week’s Australian Open has a great field and from what I have seen in playing this golf course, it’s a course I really like and it should be another low-scoring weekend if the weather plays its part.”
It will back to Dublin for the Christmas break once Purcell completes his Australian Open commitments.
“It’s been a long year, so I’m looking forward to getting back home and winding down over Christmas,” he said.
“I just wanted to get these two events, the New South Wales and the Australian Open under my belt.”
As for the new decade, Purcell indicated his playing future remains ‘up in the air’ but he will use the break to send off invitation requests to compete on the secondary Challenge Tour.
Purcell, who was wearing a Nike cap and shirt, has recently switched to Srixon clubs and also indicated he is yet to sign with a management company.
“Again, we will wait to see what happens if I sign with a company,” he said.
“The fact I am wearing Nike is due to the fact I was with them as an amateur while I’m using Srixon clubs now for just over a month, and I’ve got really used to them and they’re all fine-tuned.
“I’m just looking forward so much to next year as I am already finding there is a lot more motivation as to what lays ahead in the professional game compared to the amateur ranks.
“I reached a very good level and the next step is turning pro and it’s an exciting new chapter in my career.”
AND Purcell has drawn a decent tee-time for the Australian Open teeing-up alongside the Australians Matt Goggin and amateur Lukas Michel.
Goggin is a former PGA Tour member while in September, the 25-year old Michel became the first foreign-born player in its 39-year history to win the U.S. Mid-Am, defeating American Joseph Deraney 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colorado.
In the group ahead of Purcell is Masters-winning Mike Weir and Aussie PGA Tour champ, Rod Pampling and in the group immediately behind is multi-European Tour winning Brett Rumford and fellow Aussie Josh Younger, winner of last week’s NSW Open.