Marc Leishman’s 2017 just keeps getting better and better. The Victorian welcomed a baby daughter, won twice on the PGA Tour and capped it all off with the Greg Norman Medal on Tuesday.
The man synonymous with Warrnambool will try and add on more highlight and another piece of silverware, his first in Australia, this week at Royal Pines as he tees it up in the Australian PGA Championship. However, he will be attempting to do so without a secret ingredient that he will have to forgo this week in his homeland.
As part of his and wife Audrey’s Foundation, Begin Again, Back Bay Brewing, a small brewery near his home in Virginia Beach, America, has produced a beer in his honour, ‘Leishman Lager’. And the 34-year-old heaped praise on the amber fluid during his press conference at Royal Pines after the Pro-am on Wednesday.
“I don't know,” Leishman said of the ingredients. “I think there's Australian hops in them. I don't get into the recipe, I just tell them how I like it to taste.
“… it tastes fairly similar to Carlton Draught actually. It's got – yeah, it's a nice beer. Same colour at Carlton Draught, similar taste.”
While the likeable right hander was light hearted when discussing the brew bearing his name he revealed it is for a good cause and also played a big role in celebrating his victories in 2017.
“It's become really popular in the Virginia Beach area, so it would be nice if we could make it a little bigger around America and hopefully eventually to Australia,” he said. “It fit seven cans of Leishman Lager in it, the BMW trophy.”
“… it's not only a really good beer, it's raising money for families who are going through toxic shock syndrome, sepsis or acute respiratory distress syndrome.”
That the beer benefits the cause so close to Leishman’s heart, which nearly took the life of his wife, says a great deal about the man who appears to have perfected the work life balance in 2017. And had reservations about coming to Australia to play at all this summer before thinking he would regret the decision not to return later.
“With my form I thought I had a pretty good chance of winning it (the Greg Norman Medal), I just really didn't want to – I just wanted to be there if I was to win. It's something that hopefully I will get another chance to win it and hopefully I will win it again, but I think if I hadn't had come back and won it and wasn't there to accept the award, I would have regretted it. I try and avoid having any regrets,” he said.
“My wife was pushing me out the door pretty much. She's like, "You've really got to go." To not come back to Australia for a year is hard, it's hard for us. We've got families in America and all that and of course we want to come back, but sometimes you've got to put your family first. But when you've got the support of your wife to do it, that was a big thing along with obviously the medal.”
Leishman was of course more than just a chance to win the medal he collected on Tuesday night. He was an unbackable favourite having claimed Australia’s only individual wins on the PGA Tour in 2017 and identified himself as one of the world’s premier players.
The World No.13 credited his driving as the main improvement in his game this year and suggested it would once again be a crucial component to his game this week.
“I think driving the ball's extremely important around here because the greens are pretty penalizing and I think it's important to be hitting to the greens off the fairways,” he said. “If you're getting yourself onto the right level of the green, they're pretty flat and you can make birdies.
“That was a massive step for me this year, to drive the ball well, and I did drive the ball really well. So that's a big one. If you're driving the ball well, then you're giving yourself more opportunities to fire at flags and hopefully in turn more opportunities to make – or give yourself makeable putts. At the end of the day you've still got to make the putts, but I feel like the driver was the start of that.”
The 34-year-old attributed his improvement with the longest club in the bag to a number of factors. Chief among them his ongoing work with long term coach Denis McDade, who was similarly celebrated at the Australian PGA’s night of nights as the Coach of the Year. Primarily thanks to his work with the all-conquering Leishman.
“We've been together 17 years,” Leishman said of McDade. “That's half my life. We've become really, really good friends. You know, he's one of the people that he's in – well, he won his award and I feel he was a part of my award as well.
“The work I've done over the years with Dennis has been a slow progression of getting better, getting into better positions to be able to not hit the wide ones, which of course you still do occasionally, but the driver is very forgiving and Callaway did a really good job with the design of it and the look of it.”
That Leishman is so willing to direct praise to others for his success in what is arguably the most individual sport in the world goes a long way towards explaining his popularity and reputation as one of the good guys of the PGA Tour. His passionate discussion about his beer with the media assembled at Royal Pines did likewise, once again showing that the man known as ‘Leish’ is just like anyone who enjoys golf and a beer. Albeit a little differently as an outstanding talent at one and partaking in the other with his name on it.
As always Warrnambool’s favourite son will return to his hometown as part of his visit after the tournament to see friends and family and tee it up at his home club.
“I'll probably have a game next week,” Leishman said. “It's always fun to go back there and play the course where you grew up on, learnt the game on and just brings back a lot of really, really good memories.”
Before he can head home for a catch up, however, Leishman has his eyes set on taking care of business on the Gold Coast.
“You grow up and these are the tournaments that you watch as a kid and you see your idols playing them and winning them and you want to win them. I'm no different. I've seen my friends win them now and I would love to hoist the Kirkwood Cup up on Sunday, but you've got to play really good golf and just hope that someone else doesn't play better than you.”
Leishman is sure to be among the contenders come Sunday at a slightly damp RACV Royal Pines after on and off rain on Wednesday, with few players in the world playing better than the 34-year-old in 2017, in large part thanks to his hunger when arriving for tournaments after putting the clubs away at home.
“I guess I'm lucky in the respect that I don't generally do a whole lot of practice on my weeks off so it makes it pretty easy,” Leishman said of how he spends his off weeks in Virginia Beach. “I like to just get away from it and then when I get to the tournament I like to be fresh and want to play golf and get out there and get into it.”
Perhaps there’s something in the water, or beer, down in Virginia Beach.