Blake Windred turned out to be the lucky loser at the Golf Challenge NSW Open today.
The 24-year-old from Newcastle chased his former NSW State teammate Harrison Crowe to the finish line at Concord, shooting a brilliant 64 to post 17-under par and finish outright second.
But because Crowe is an amateur, Windred picks up the $72,000 first prize cheque despite being the runner-up.
The significance of that relates to the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia order of merit race, which offers DP World Tour playing cards for next season to the top three finishers at the end of this season, which ends in May in the Northern Territory.
Windred won the Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links before Christmas, and came into this week 18th on the order of merit, but he will likely jump into the top five after today’s result.
Better still, he can bottle the vibes of playing in front of hundreds of friends and family who made the trip from Newcastle today in the much-appreciated sunshine.
“I stayed patient and it was so cool,” he said. “Honestly the biggest takeaway from today is ‘how good’s competing in Australia’? Having, you know, 100 people come down from Newcastle, family, girlfriend, coach out here this week, I wasn’t too worried about the score today. I was just ‘I want to keep hearing those cheers and keep making birdies’.”
Windred started quietly but caught fire from the time he made birdie at the par-four eighth hole, going birdie-birdie-birdie-par-eagle-birdie to get within sight of a victory. His eagle at the par-five 11th came after a perfect three iron second shot that finished pin high. “I just rolled it in, a quick putt down there. That was probably the biggest cheer all day. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life, that kind of stuff.”
The Novacastrian, who was a NSW teammate of Harrison Crowe’s in 2019, has been playing on the Challenge Tour in Europe. The chance of leaping to the next level appeals, to say the least, so much so that a planned trip to Africa to play on the Challenge Tour next week may now go on hold. He has not booked that flight yet, and there are a handful more events in Australia that he could stay and play “It’s probably the first time it works out not to be organised,” he said. “I’d love to keep playing in Australia.
“The DP World Tour is class. It’s where I want to be. It’s in the middle of my goals. That’s what I’m aiming for. If it happens here or over on the Challenge Tour, however it happens, I do have faith that it will happen and I’ll be working hard until I do that.”
Windred’s 64 was not the low round of the day though; that honour went to another NSW pro, Daniel Gale, who shot 62 and could have gone lower. Astonishingly, Gale’s nine-under 62 came with bogeys at two of his last three holes.
He was 10 under through 13 holes and while fans were on 59 watch, he was thinking even more crazy thoughts. “To be honest, I was thinking deeper, the way I was going,” said Gale.
“I said at the start of the day where I was position-wise, being 10 shots back I could literally shoot 56 today and still not win.
“I was trying to keep rolling with it and keep going. It was a shame that I putted off the green at seven because it kind of blew my chances.
“Any time you shoot 62 you can’t be that unhappy with it. It’s one of the easiest rounds going that deep.”