His beloved Sydney Roosters aren’t featuring but rookie professional Blake Windred admits that there is a Grand Final vibe ahead of this week’s Tailor-Made Building Services NT PGA Championship at Palmerston Golf and Country Club.
As the NRL and AFL competitions prepare to declare their champions for an elongated 2020 season, players converging on Palmerston from Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia are treating it as their decider.
Given the cancellation of both the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship, the NT PGA now shapes as the biggest event left on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia until 2021.
It’s why Windred is adopting an ‘all or nothing’ approach in his first event since the New Zealand Open in March having only been cleared to travel from Newcastle last Monday.
“I feel like I honestly have nothing to lose this week and everything to gain,” Windred said on Wednesday morning before boarding the plane to Darwin.
“In the Prelim you’ve got your fingers crossed that you’re going to make it to the big dance and we’ve obviously got the all-clear so we get to play the Grand Final this week.
“It’s the unknown, not knowing whether we will have another tournament this year.
“Having that uncertainty makes it feel like this could be our last tournament and you want to get some runs on the board.
“Regardless of the result I get to compete this week and I’ve been practising for this moment for the past seven months.
“Once I get out there and find some rhythm, anything’s possible. Hopefully I’m able to get into contention and give a few of the boys a run.”
Given the dearth of playing opportunities available this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Windred is one of very few players who bring winning form into the 2020 NT PGA.
The 22-year-old defeated Jake Higginbottom, Dimi Papadatos and Nathan Green in the final to claim the Toronto Modified Super Sixes match play three weeks ago and hopes that form will transfer across to a sterner test this week.
“It’s the unknown, not knowing whether we will have another tournament this year. Having that uncertainty makes it feel like this could be our last tournament and you want to get some runs on the board.” – Blake Windred
“’Greeny’ was posting on Facebook that I’d peaked too early so to then come out the next day and knock a few of the boys off in the tournament was a really good feeling,” said Windred, revealing that he shot nine-under in the practice round.
“Winning is winning. That’s what my coach Gary Barter has always told me. It doesn’t matter if you win at a 36-hole junior event or win a professional event, it’s the same feeling.
“I felt like I was able to get a lot out of that tournament and hopefully I can take some of that form into Northern Territory PGA this week.”
When global golf shut down in March Windred dedicated himself to a rigorous practice schedule.
As the suspension of tournaments piled up the Hunter native was forced to take two weeks off to recharge, returning to practice with renewed purpose two months ago.
“I felt like the past two months I was able to consolidate the hard work I put in during COVID,” said Windred, who turned professional last October.
“There’s never any guarantees that the hard work will pay off over the three days of this tournament but I am very confident in what I’m bringing and my ability to get the ball in the hole regardless of how you’re hitting it.
“The past month, knowing that this tournament was coming up, all my practice becomes a lot easier because you have an end-goal and a finish date where you want to be peaking by and ready to play your best golf.
“Hopefully my best golf comes this weekend.
“We all want to lift up that trophy at the end of the week ... and it’s a pretty cool looking trophy too.”
The Tailor-Made Building Services NT PGA Championship will be played at Palmerston Golf and Country Club from October 23-25 where players will compete for a share in $70,000 prizemoney. Leading players taking part include Windred, Anthony Quayle, Michael Sim, Deyen Lawson, Dimi Papadatos, Jason Norris and former NT PGA champions Brett Rankin and Jordan Zunic.