Reigning SP PNG Open champion Daniel Gale returns to the Royal Port Moresby Golf Club in 2019 to defend his title following a breakout year as a rookie professional.
Winning his maiden ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia tournament in Papua New Guinea in 2018, the region has been a happy hunting ground for Gale who’s path to last year’s SP PNG Open included Monday qualifying and subsequently winning the 2018 Morobe Open on the Ladbrokes Pro-Am Series.
“It’s really kick-started my career,” said Gale of his SP PNG Open win. “I had no status, no tour card and was relying on Monday qualifying or a walk up start, which I got for this tournament last year.
“To be able to go ahead and win, especially with a bit of expectation on my shoulders after winning the Morobe Open the week before and to do it in the fashion that I did; winning by 9 shots, it was pretty special.
“To know that no matter how the rest of the year went, I was playing all of the big events this year was great.”
The win has propelled Gale onto the world stage, earning the New South Welshman a two year exemption on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and the 22-year-old has certainly made the most of it.
Recording a host of strong results including a ninth place finish at the Australian PGA Championship and a match-play start at the tri-sanctioned ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth tournament, Gale has proven himself to be a strong competitor.
“This year was my first time playing the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth and I’ve watched that event on TV for the last few years thinking it was such a cool tournament,” added Gale.
“To actually make the top-24 and be in the match-play, I was just thinking, I’m there.
“Playing the big events like the Australian Open, Australian PGA Championship and the Vic Open and playing in the same field as top-50 players in the world, knowing I’m competing with and potentially beating them as well is awesome.
“At the Australian PGA Championship I finished tied ninth and beat a strong quality field so definitely winning this [the SP PNG Open] last year really boosted my confidence.”
Returning to Royal Port Moresby Golf Club with a year of professional golf under his belt, Gale believes he is a strong chance of defending his title despite the strong field assembled for the tournament.
“I definitely think so, there’s no reason that I can’t go back-to-back. It’s a new year,” said Gale.
“The golf course will probably be in different condition compared to last year so I’ll have to adapt to that. The way I played the golf course last year, I know how to play it and score well around here so my game plan won’t change much.”
With rains falling in Port Moresby ahead of the tournament, Gale is expecting course conditions to differ compared to previous years but still believes it takes smart, strategic play to win.
“I’ve seen photos that it has been really wet,” Gale continued. “If it’s wet it’ll work in my favour as well because I’m a pretty long hitter.
“You’ve got to do everything pretty well here but definitely you have to ball strike it pretty solidly around this golf course.
“The greens are quite small and sort of a bit of a dome shape so you’ve got to hit your spots, hit your numbers and hit a lot of fairways because if you get in the trees you’re chipping out sideways and most of the time you don’t have a shot.”
Receiving a warm welcome back to Papua New Guinea, Gale is happy to be back at one of his favourite events on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia calendar.
“When I arrived at the airport yesterday there was a guy with a camera already waiting, that was pretty cool,” Gale laughed.
“I’m getting the vibes from last year. Yesterday I went down to the caddy shack to try and find my caddy from last year and they were all saying ‘hey Daniel, welcome back, great to have you back’.
“I’ve received a really good welcome back and it’s great to be here. I’ve got good memories and I’m looking to try and emulate those again.”
The ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia’s 2019 SP PNG Open tees off on Thursday at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club in Papua New Guinea.
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