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Senior storms into Australian PGA contention

Peter Senior at his Hope Island home after his announcement that he was retiring from professional golf. Picture Glenn Hampson
Peter Senior at his Hope Island home after his announcement that he was retiring from professional golf. Picture Glenn Hampson

PETER Senior was 15 minutes away from being a spectator at the Australian PGA.

But a late change of heart meant the 58-year-old is just one shot from the tournament lead after the first round at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.

The three-time Australian PGA champion shot a five-under 67 - the same score as Spanish superstar Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman medallist Marc Leishman, to be a solitary stroke behind co-leaders Adam Bland and Jordan Zunic.

Zunic was born in 1991, two years after Senior claimed his first Joe Kirkwood Cup.

The ageless Senior officially retired from tournament golf in 2016 but was approached by PGA officials to make a comeback earlier this month.

He rejected their offer but changed his mind during a Legends pro-am tour event on November 9.

Peter Senior with wife June, children Krystlle 27, Jasmine 24, and Mitch 22 after giving the game away last year. Picture Glenn Hampson
Peter Senior with wife June, children Krystlle 27, Jasmine 24, and Mitch 22 after giving the game away last year. Picture Glenn Hampson

His wife June then sent a text to PGA boss Gavin Kirkman to confirm his entry, 15 minutes before the deadline.

"I was on the 14th hole at Killara golf club in Sydney and we had 15 minutes before the entries closed,'' Senior said.

"I wasn't going to play and then I said to June, 'you know, I'm feeling pretty good about my game'.

"So we made the decision and I still wasn't sure even though I put my entry in.

"They were holding a spot for me for a few days there and I didn't want to play but Gavin Kirkman from the PGA, he's been on to me about playing.

"He said you'd be a great asset ... even if you come out and play two days.

"I said if I'm coming out, I'm not playing two.''

The evergreen Senior is right in the hunt at Royal Pines. Picture: Getty Images
The evergreen Senior is right in the hunt at Royal Pines. Picture: Getty Images

Senior won his last PGA crown in 2010 at the ripe age of 51. He also won the Australian Open in 2012 and the Australian Masters in 2015 to prove age is no barrier for the diminutive Queenslander.

Senior has been playing on Saturday mornings on the Gold Coast and sneaking in the occasional nine holes with his son Mitchell since stepping away from the seniors tour 18 months ago.

He also does a fortnightly burst on the Legends pro-am tour.

Driven by the fear of looking "like a moron'' this week, he worked overtime with long-time coach Gary Edwin the past week.

"I felt pretty good. I felt like I might be a bit nervous because I haven't played a fully fledged tournament for the last 18 months but I wasn't. I hit a couple of good shots and away I went,'' Senior said.

Peter Senior: “The only reason I’m here is because I live here.” Picture: AAP
Peter Senior: “The only reason I’m here is because I live here.” Picture: AAP

"I started to hit some good iron shots and didn't miss many fairways and I only missed the one green.

"I'm just happy to shoot a good score to start with.

"If the wind gets up, I'll be in a little bit of trouble on those (long) holes.

"That's the key to me having a good score. If I can play those four or five really difficult holes.''

While his son and former caddie has been pleading with him to return to tournament golf, Senior said he was enjoying time away from full-time golf.

"I've had a great 12 months with the family. I've been on the road for 40 years. Enough is enough. The only reason I'm here is because I live here,'' he said.

Adam Scott brought out the broomstick putter on Thursday. Picture: Getty Images
Adam Scott brought out the broomstick putter on Thursday. Picture: Getty Images

CHIP SHOTS - with Jim Tucker and Greg Davis

ADAM Scott's return to the broomstick putter was given its first tick of approval when he rolled in a 7m birdie putt in between the torrential rain squalls that hit his morning group at the Australian PGA.

Back-to-back birdies to close left him with good vibes from yesterday's 71 and confidence he'd made the right call on the putter he must keep a centimetre or two from being anchored on his chest to be a legal stroke.

"Yeah, the putter was good actually, really solid ... I didn't want to let Sergio get too far ahead," Scott said of the late flourish to peg back playing partner Sergio Garcia (67) just a little.

An eight iron kicking into the pond for double bogey at his seventh hole, the par three 16th, sapped momentum from the Scott round but there's better ahead.

Jordan Zunic is a surprise co-leader. Picture: AAP
Jordan Zunic is a surprise co-leader. Picture: AAP

FIRST round co-leader Jordan Zunic gave rich praise to former PGA Tour pro Nick O'Hern for the makeover of his mental game in time for yesterday's fine 66.

Zunic absorbed all the positive messages when he read O'Hern's 2016 book, Tour Mentality: Inside the Mind of a Tour Pro, but it was a practice round with the former Australian PGA champion on Tuesday at Royal Pines which was a game-changer.

"I'd been struggling with my mental mindset, he got in touch and the next thing I'm having an 18-hole mental playing lesson with Nick," Zunic, 25, said.

"He's got me thinking better and not being as hard on myself but you just don't expect it to click straight away."

Zunic admirably made a concession few young pros do: "I think my generation, we expect things to happen straightaway, which can kill us a little bit with having expectations a little bit too high."

 

MARC Leishman' s chip-in eagle on the 15th hole turned a ho-hum day into exactly what the Greg Norman Medallist wanted.

He was four-under-par for the final holes in his 67 and his rating of the greens, "so smooth ... perfect" is the mindset to plunder many more birdies to contend for his first big Australian title.

Charlie Earp: “I’ve been called some bloody awful names but never Immortal before.” Pic Darren England.
Charlie Earp: “I’ve been called some bloody awful names but never Immortal before.” Pic Darren England.

CHARLIE Earp used his crowning this week as a PGA Immortal to make the strong point that out-of-control technology is tormenting the game.

"It won't be long before you have the first tee at Byron Bay and the first green at Alice Springs ... we have to look at the tools of the game," the renowned former coach said of the modern golf ball almost having an engine.

He was thrilled by the honour bestowed on him: "I've been called some bloody awful names but never Immortal before."

Topics:  australian pga gold coast peter senior