A fitness regimen designed by former Australian cricket coach Tim Nielsen has West Australian Stephen Leaney ready to fire in his Champions Tour debut.
Leaney endured a four-man playoff to earn a Champions Tour card at the end of 2018 but had to wait until his birthday on March 10 before he could commence what he is referring to as his “third career” in golf.
Winner of the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open two years ago, Leaney’s path to the lucrative seniors tour in the United States was set three years ago when he was struggling for motivation.
Based in Adelaide since returning from the US at the end of 2010, Leaney has trained with Big Bash franchise the Strikers and leaned on Nielsen to bring his body and mind back up to where it needs to be to match it with some legends of the game.
“It’s been a three-year plan just to get ready for Q-School,” Leaney told the Adelaide Advertiser.
“I was struggling when I was 47 and not really committed to doing anything.
“I was sort of half practising and half committing to tournaments and that’s when Tim said you’ve either got to give it away or you’ve got to fully commit.
“And I just got back into full commitment like I was in my 30s.”
Leaney has been drawn to play with Fran Quinn and Bob May in the opening round of the Rapiscan Systems Classic in Mississippi and is under no illusions about the standard of player he is up against.
The first three groups alone feature names such as Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, John Daly and Tom Lehman along with German great and Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer.
“You’ve only got to look at Langer at 61, he’s still winning the whole thing every year,“ said Leaney.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult than what people think.
“I know people are saying it’s the ‘Old Boys Tour’ but they can all play.
“There are still two dozen guys who are very competitive.”
In the past 12 months Leaney has shown an ability to compete with the ‘flat bellies’, the 2003 US Open runner-up and four-time European Tour winner finishing tied for fourth at both the WA Open and the Victorian PGA Championship towards the end of 2018.
The addition of Leaney to the senior squad doubles the Aussie representation this week with David McKenzie, who was tied for 10th in his last start at the Hoag Classic, also teeing it up at the tournament.
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