Travel the globe and you are likely to find an Aussie in the golf industry in almost every corner. And for those who follow tournament golf closely, an unknown name on an entry list each week offers little surprise. Even considering this, Kieren Pratt teeing it up in the Middle East this week is an underdog story for the ages.
If you think the name Kieren Pratt sounds familiar from his Asian Tour win and round with Tiger Woods at the 2010 Australian Masters you would be half right.
Those career milestones belong to Kieran Pratt (with an A) of Victoria. But you would be far from the first one to make that mistake.
Kieren Pratt (with an E) is the Head Professional at Ras Al Hamra in Oman, who after closing the local professional qualifying at this week’s host venue Al Mouj Golf in birdie-par-birdie, will step off the teaching tee and make his debut European Tour start at the Oman Open.
And as to be expected, he has plenty of stories of Pratt confusion from his days as a Trainee professional at Toukley Golf Club on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
RIGHT: Pratt will take time away from his job at Ras Al Hamra to tee it up in the Oman Open. PHOTO: Supplied.
“The amount of emails, Facebook messages, phone calls that were coming into the shop asking how I played in the event about two hours after Kieran had finished, on Saturday afternoon was ridiculous,” Pratt told Golf Australia of the day his namesake teed it up with Tiger. “Not to mention the Facebook requests and Instagram follows from random people that thought I was a superstar. I was just a guy filling up the Coke cans in the fridge and restocking the chips.”
Since his days at Toukley, Pratt, who counts multiple PGA Tour of Australasia winner Dimi Papadatos among his closest friends, has become a respected teaching professional who after nearly four years in Austria made the move to Oman four months ago to take up a two-year contract with Troon Golf.
When the opportunity to attempt to pre-qualify for the European Tour event came up, Pratt admits he “practiced a little bit harder and was stretching at home at night rather than sitting on the couch drinking a beer”. And the commitment paid off, with his sense of humour and self-depreciation shining through in his Facebook post to tell family and friends of his success.
“I might not have won a trainee match or many points for Toukley Golf Club but I have somehow managed to qualify for next week’s European Tour event here in Oman ... yes OMAN,” he wrote.
“If you have some spare time on Thursday 28th or Friday the 29th of Feb come down to Al Mouj Golf for a laugh, as that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. Who knows maybe I’ll even make the weekend.
“P.S. My lesson prices have gone up 50 percent.”
Although he is taking everything in his stride and regularly having a laugh at the almost unbelievable situation he finds himself in, Pratt is looking forward to a week unlike any other in his golf career despite having caddied for Papadatos in European and Challenge Tour events in the past. The PGA of Australia member suggested he and Dad Mark, who will caddie for him this week, will be doing everything to soak in the atmosphere.
“I am definitely nervous, but I have been trying not to think so much about the tournament and treat it as just going to have a bit of a game,” Pratt said. “It just happens to be the biggest event I have played in by about $1.6 million or more. So just have a few beers and do my thing. Practice a lot harder and try not to really think about it. But nerves are through the roof.
“I’ve got my Dad flying over from Australia. Our thing is try and meet a couple of the pros and get a few photos and get a ticket to the corporate box after the rounds, if things go good happy days and have a beer. If things go bad, continue to have a beer and enjoy being there. The course is phenomenal, the whole experience is something that I will probably never get again, so I’m excited.”
Despite joking that the change from his normal level of play to the European Tour is “not a big jump, not even a huge jump, it’s like from Earth to the moon” Pratt proved his abilities by overcoming the admittedly small field in qualifying, taking the spot from the hands of Al Mouj Head Pro and Oman National Coach Steven Troup. And Papadatos believes his old mate could surprise if things go his way.
“I’ve spoken to him already, nothing inspirational though,” Papadatos told Golf Australia when asked if he had offered any advice. “He is pretty pumped as he is a bit of a golf nerd. He will be lapping it up! It would have been great if it didn’t clash with the New Zealand Open otherwise I could have been pegging it up with him.
“He doesn’t need any advice I think he will do great. He’s a good player and knows the course well, if the putter gets going, which I’ve seen him do before, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the cut.”
Making the weekend would pose its own issues for the locally based Aussie who suggests he would need to play “out of his skin” to survive the 36-hole cut. To save on luggage weight, Pratt left his warmer golf clothes in storage with a friend in Austria upon moving to the desert ... Meaning the early part of tournament week will be spent searching for a second and potentially third pair of golf pants to wear during the event.
Even with his course knowledge as a potential advantage, Pratt is setting the bar lower than a potential first European Tour pay day to ensure he has some unforgettable memories of the week on the world’s second-biggest circuit alongside his Dad. Even perhaps giving the other Kieran Pratt a window into what he has experienced in the past.
“I think the goal is to try and turn up to the event and not make an absolute fool of myself and enjoy it as much as I can. But I’m not having any expectations, just to lap it all up and maybe get a new driver and a few sleeves of balls,” Pratt joked.
And while Papadatos has chosen to tee it up in New Zealand, he did offer the following form guide on his friend, who will be joined by fellow Aussies Sam Brazel, Nick Cullen, Scott Hend, Lucas Herbert, Deyen Lawson and Min Woo Lee, to help the golf nut looking over the odds when they stumble across the name Kieren Pratt on the entry list.
“Drawn well, resuming after a win last start on this track. In a stronger class this week but good each way bet. Has performed well over the distance in trials although first time at this length. Strong claims, suited here.”