Jake McLeod is the 24 year old winner of the 2018 PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit. This is his first year on the European Tour and ahead of the Vic Open, he wrote this week's Player Blog talking about how one month late last year may have changed his career.
My life has changed a lot in the last few months. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a good change but life has changed.
In the space of a month last year, I went from middle-of-the-pack finishes on the Australasia Tour to a fully fledged member of the European Tour with a ticket to play in The Open in July.
Since I turned pro in 2015, my goal was the European Tour. I love playing in Australia and it’s been great for my golf but the ability to play against the best fields and travel the world is something I’ve always strived for.
In October I missed the cut at the Victorian PGA Championship by five shots and I could feel my season was burning out. I only had three or four more starts but something wasn’t working, so I went home for a couple of weeks and worked my ass off. I got back to the fundamentals and focused on the last month of the season.
I made the cut at the Queensland Open and shot 66 to get into contention but played crap in the final round, shot 78 and finished way down the leaderboard. Despite that Sunday, I knew that the work I had done was paying off and I just need to be patient.
A week later, it all clicked.
I was three shots off the lead after two rounds of the NSW Open and in the penultimate group. I had probably the best warm-up I’ve ever had and just felt composed and ready. Whether it was the work I had done in the weeks prior, or a feeling I got that morning on the range, something felt different and I walked to the first tee with more confidence than normal. The whole day the hole looked huge and I birdied six of the first seven holes and took the lead. One mental mistake on the last led to a bogey but by the end of the day I had shot 62 and was leading by four.
Looking back, that’s the day I became a European Tour member. The confidence I got from that round was priceless. I played solid in the final round and managed to win by two. That put me number one on the Order of Merit and a third place finish the next week at the Aussie Open was enough to get me into The Open.
I booked my accommodation for Portrush last week so it’s starting to feel very real. It'll be my first Major. Being in Northern Ireland and at Royal Portrush is a bit of a bonus. I think it already sold out a while ago so the crowds are going to be phenomenal and I just can't wait to get there and get started.
The Aussie PGA was the last event of the season and I needed a solid week to win the Order of Merit. I played well but Matthew Miller was playing great and very nearly did enough to bump me from the top. By the end of the week, I’d finished 19th and won the Order of Merit.
What a month. What a year!
After that, I shut things down for Christmas. Firstly, I wanted to recharge and get ready for a big year in 2019 but secondly I wanted to take time to soak in the season and what I had achieved. Success in this game doesn’t come around that often and I think it’s important to appreciate the highs, as much as you analyse the lows. I spent time with family, had a few good celebrations and began planning this year.
I played Saudi last week as my first event of the year and it was a great experience. It was my first time in the Middle East and I played pretty well. I’d love to have back my middle two rounds but all things considered, it was a solid week and nice way to start the season.
I'll still based out of Brisbane so until May I’ll mainly be playing in Australia, Middle East and Asia, so I'll do a few of those and come home in between. And then I'll do two blocks, from May up until The Open and I'll stay in Europe. I'll come home after The Open for about four weeks and then go back over and hopefully play the final events in the Race To Dubai, assuming I play well enough to earn a place in those events.
As for this week, it's a big bonus for us in Australia to have these co-sanctions with the European Tour. It’s a big opportunity if one of the boys can get a win, they get the rest of this season and then next on the European Tour. So there's a lot at stake but it'd be awesome if an Aussie wins to have another one out there because it doesn't seem like there's too many of us out there. Would be nice to have a familiar voice at dinner throughout the season!
Regardless, I’m stoked for this week. Stoked for this year and can’t wait to experience at lot of firsts.
Courtesy of Europeantour.com
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