There are few professional golfers who are as well travelled in their career as Scott Hend. The three-time European Tour winner from Queensland has seen plenty during his more than 20 years in the play-for-pay ranks and, typically, he doesn’t hold back on a wide range of topics.
What has life been like so far in the European Tour bubble?
When we got into the second week, I will be honest with you, I sat down and just went ‘I don’t know how I am going to survive six weeks of doing this’. It is something that I am not used to, it’s something that a lot of us are struggling with and it’s totally different. We are all out of depth.
The difference has been uncomfortable for others, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston withdrew during the first week, is there support from the Tour?
I don’t know how they are going to support, because we’re human beings, we’re used to, especially us golfers, the social aspect of having our mates out here and doing whatever. And we pretty much can’t do that.
I mean, there are so many rules and protocols that we have to follow and if we don’t then obviously there are repercussions.
You and TC (caddie Tony Carolan) haven’t torn each other apart yet?
No, but I can see it is going to be a pretty good excuse for some guys to fire their caddie that’s for sure (laughing).
Does playing without crowds add to the odd feeling of the bubble?
It is just really hard, you feel really flat, there’s not much adrenaline going.
For the guys that don’t get the opportunities to play many tournaments, I am guessing, they have got the adrenaline going and whatever. But if you have been around a long time and you have played a lot of golf tournaments, it is nice to have the interaction with the people that are there.
What sort of state is your game in after your longest break from golf?
If I was rating it out of 100 it would have to be minus four. It’s brutal.
The second round of the first event in Newcastle was my fifth round of golf since March 6. And to say I was rusty, I mean my wedge play is horrendous and I worked really hard on my wedges when I was in Florida before I went there.
Rust is to be expected, but is it harder work than anticipated?
Mentally it is harder work, because you want to be somewhere that you’re not. This is the longest I have been with my family for an extended amount of time, I came over here and the first week wasn’t playing well and actually felt like I wanted to be with my family.
Normally when you come and play golf you feel like you want to be at the golf course and playing golf, so I can get where Beef is coming from.
The break has major negatives, but there are positives like the time at home with the family, what did that do for you personally?
Most importantly it took a bit of stress and pressure off my wife.
So, getting to be there to actually do a lot more stuff and the kids see me a lot more is a real positive to it.
Seeing them grow up instead of going away for six, seven weeks and then you come back and you notice they have grown two inches or whatever. So, being there sharing the burden of bringing up children (laughs) with the missus is a good thing.
But not being out and playing golf sort of leaves a bit of a hole as well.
Another positive for you is a spot in the US Open. What does playing in that championship mean to you?
I said to TC, my game doesn’t feel too good but the only reason we are were in the UK putting up with what we were is you don’t really want to turn up to the US Open and guys ask what you’ve been doing and you’ve been sitting at home for five and a half months (laughing). It’s not really the best preparation to play a major is it?
We had to look at the long run. We were trying to get to an end goal, which was obviously the US Open as a short term end goal to play well in that.
The US Open is at Winged Foot, you played there in 2006 and played well (T32), what do you remember about that week?
I just remember on Sunday I sort of thought if I could have shot red around the back nine I could have had a chance of being thereabouts in the top-10.
But, it went the other way because Sunday at the US Open is obviously difficult. The New York crowds were just phenomenal. So loud and boisterous and it was great.
Did you get involved in any celebrations with Geoff?
No, I finished and we left the golf course and went back to the hotel.
It was fantastic to see an Aussie win a US Open again, it had been a long time, and it was great for Geoff.
To be honest, and I think he would probably admit this, it was a bit of a surprise that he came back with the trophy after the position that Phil (Mickelson) and Monty (Colin Montgomerie) were in on the 18th hole, but you know, these things happen to people who work hard.
Is there a different mindset when it comes to majors?
I’m not really focused on an end position or who I am playing against, or who’s there or who I am grouped with, I am more focused when I go to a major on how I can play that golf course, whether I am able to manufacture a game that week to somehow do what I can and finish in the best position.
“I haven’t had fantastic finishes in the majors I have played, but I have felt like I have been teetering on the edge of possibly playing really good, I just haven’t cracked the code.” – Scott Hend
That’s how I have come to look at going to the bigger tournaments, and I haven’t had fantastic finishes in the majors I have played, but I have felt like I have been teetering on the edge of possibly playing really good, I just haven’t cracked the code.
You have been very successful since your time on the PGA Tour. What did that do for you, even though it maybe wasn’t out and out success?
I think unfortunately for me, unlike these guys that are coming through now, I didn’t have that college experience in big time tournaments to really feel settled.
Going to the US all of sudden you’re teeing it up in these big tournaments with big crowds, it is just a massive difference. It takes you a long time to try and feel settled and feel like you can do it.
But these days, the kids coming through the college system are taught it’s just me, me, me and nothing else, they are all thinking about themselves, they don’t think about anyone else, so in a way it is drilled into them to be selfish.
They are conditioned to win earlier, that’s why you see these guys come out and win earlier and feel comfortable.
But back in my day, especially the way I came through golf, it was a little bit more of an uncomfortable feeling to get settled.
There is a lot of pomp and ceremony that goes along with the PGA Tour, how does that sit with a straight-shooting Queenslander?
Unfortunately, when you shoot from the hip and you say what you think in some different countries, they don’t really appreciate it. They want you to be a little more underhanded and behind their back. But you know what, it’s not going to happen, if I don’t like it I will say.
Obviously this pandemic has changed many people’s opinions on a variety of topics. As one of the most travelled golfers in the world will it change the way you go about things?
I don’t like to get amongst a million people anyway. I don’t like to kiss people hello all the time. When I do go to the toilet on the golf course when TC is caddying he will pour water on my hands and we just generally wash our hands all the time. We are just generally very hygienic.
So for us, it’s not really a big change for us in that sort of a way.
Does it give you a little more drive to come back and add an Aussie Open or PGA to your resume?
I was looking forward to this year, Australian Open at Kingston Heath, that’s been postponed or cancelled whichever way you want to look at it. And then the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland, I really want to come back for that.
I really want to come back and play in Australia, but unfortunately as I have said before, the Australian Open has always been scheduled at an inconvenient time for guys that play in Europe if you get to the last playoff events.
The PGA is different, because I am a part of the Australian PGA and I feel it is a tournament that I belong to, but I would love to play both of them in the same calendar year, just trying to fit it into a schedule is difficult, but it can be done.
The Aussie Open looks like been played in early 2021. Do you think that will get a better field, and perhaps eventually it and the PGA lining up with the Vic Open would be a good decision?
Holding tournaments in March, I’m not sure how it would go with the guys in the US, but I know for the guys in Europe, if they were to have a run of co-sanctioned events and possibly put the Australian Open as also a European event, you would probably have a few guys come and play.
Someone like you with more tournament experience than most all around the world, has anyone within administration ever reached out to you to ask your opinion on tournament golf in Australia?
Gavin Kirkman from the Australian PGA is great. He is involved with a lot of us guys overseas.
Golf Australia, nup.
Even last year, I would have come and played the Australian Open if I had of got an invite, I said I was available to come and play. No one even asked me after I won the Maybank in Malaysia early in the year to come and play.
I don’t know who is involved in the running of their tournaments, but obviously they just want to have an overseas player and they are not really worried about what anyone else is doing in the world of golf.
If there was an opportunity to be involved with one of the administrative bodies in an advisory role would you be interested?
For sure. But is there any guarantee they are going to listen? Because there has been no proof in years gone by that they are going to listen or want the help anyway.
It is one of those situations where you think you would like to try and help … I want golf to go further in my own country, but is my time going to be used wisely, are they actually going to listen to what they say?
Don’t get me wrong the focus should be on getting the big names like Jason Day and Adam Scott … they are producing all the fans and stuff and doing a great job of it. Cam Smith and the young guys coming through.
But they need to listen to those guys as well.
You need to listen to guys playing on the US Tour, the European Tour, and guys playing Japan and Asia to try and get a rounded look at it.
And if you don’t get the chance to come back and play, the conversations about what can be done better don’t necessarily occur.
Like I said, who has spoken to us when we have come back is the Australian PGA. Gavin Kirkman, and now Kim Felton does player stuff, a former player himself.
“I just love to play golf. I don’t know if it is longevity, it’s just from a love of golf.” – Scott Hend
But then you have a break down between Golf Australia and the Australian PGA, I mean let’s face it, we had two big tournaments in Australia, but they couldn’t get the Australian Open and PGA operating on the same platform.
Someone didn’t want to tell someone else, and the Australian PGA is asking questions and they are not getting answers. Golf Australia wants to be so secretive of who they are bringing over to play and what they want to do and having contracts that this guy can only play in that state and can’t come and play in your tournament. What good does that do to the general public who want to see guys come and play golf? What good does that do for the forward thinking and the movement of golf in Australia?
You’re 47 and still competitive on the European Tour. Is the US Champions Tour a focus?
I haven’t even thought about or looked into Champions Tour stuff at all.
I fully have intentions to try and remain strong enough and fit enough to try and play on the European Tour or a main Tour somewhere as long as I possibly can before the other comes up and try and do that.
Three years in golf is an eternity. So anything can happen between now and then.
You have been playing golf professionally for 23 years, is longevity one of the things you are most proud of about your career?
Mate, I just love to play golf. I don’t know if it is longevity, it’s just from a love of golf.
I mean if I hated golf like some guys do and just played for money then I wouldn’t be doing it, because I would be over it by now.
It’s like you jump in your car and you hate your car, you’re not going to keep driving it for 20 years are you? You’re going to trade it in and get something else.
DOIN’ IT FOR THE KIDS
When Scott Hend does find his way back to Australia, you are likely to find him at Brisbane’s Nudgee Golf Club, teeing it up with mates in the members’ comp or just playing some holes.
The father-of-two is also a big supporter of the club’s junior members and provides sponsorship for the group.
“Juniors are the future in golf,” Hend says. “The future of golf isn’t guys my age, the future is kids from the age of say 9-17 enjoying the game, not getting a hard time from the members, being out there and seeing what it is to actually be outdoors, not playing computer games all the time and getting a bit of sun, a bit of wildlife, enjoying the outdoors and while you’re at you get a walk and hit a white ball around.
“I think that’s important in the development of your social skills as well as physically and mentally and I can’t see any minuses in trying to help out some young kids to come out and play and love the game which I have made a living out of and is part of my life.”