Blake Windred was runner-up in the NSW Open last year. The year before he was sixth. In 2018 he was tied for third. That followed a fourth-placed finish in 2017 as an amateur.
Windred has been in contention seemingly since 2012 when at age 13 when he set the record as the youngest player to compete in the Australasian Tour event.
"It feels like I have finished in every position in the top 20 bar first," said, Windred who turned professional in 2019. "I need to tick it off the bucket list. The NSW Open and Australian Open are tournaments I have always wanted to win, nearly just as much as a major. They are at the top of the tree for me."
That was the motivation for Windred to make a marathon trip from Kenya, where he missed the cut in the DP World Tour event, to contest the 2023 NSW Open at Rich River Golf Club on the Murray River, starting today.
"Once I missed the cut, I knew I had to get back," Windred told the Newcastle Herald from Moama. "It was a six-hour flight from Narobi, a five-hour lay-over and then 14 hours to Sydney. Then I made the nine-hour drive down to Rich River.
"I'm grateful to be somewhere familiar. It feels like my backyard after some of the places I have been at in the last month. I'm keen to play golf in the day and watch the footy at night. Usually it is a hotel room, headphones on, dinner, bed."
Windred fired a final round seven-under 64 to be 17 under and a stroke behind amateur Harrison Crowe in the 2022 NSW Open at Concord, which was reduced to 54 holes after the third round was washed out.
The $72,000 prize money elevated Windred, who won the Victorian PGA earlier in the season, to second on the Australasian Order of Merit. As a result, he secured playing rights on the DP World Tour and starts in two mega-rich LIV tournaments.
Since then, the 25-year-old from Charlestown has struggled for results.
"It is disappointing any time you under achieve," Windred said. "The last month, with how good my game has been, I haven't glued all the pieces together.
"I missed the cut at Aussie Open and Aussie PGA by one. It shatters you a little bit. Over Christmas and new year when I was with family and relaxing, I had a chance to reflect. My career has been pretty awesome. I haven't had as much adversity as others. You have to add the good and the bad to the resume. I have learnt a lot."
Windred begins his quest off the first tee at 12.50 alongside Brett Colleta, who won the TPS Hunter Valley, and 2018 NSW Open winner Jake McLeod.
There are nine Hunter players - Windred, Nick Flanagan, Jake Higginbottom, Cory Lamb, Brayden Petersen, Dylan Perry, Aaron Townsend and amateurs Jye Pickin and Jake Riley - in the field.
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"It's like the tools are sharp, but I haven't made the most of it, which sucks.
That has been my priority the past couple of days. i will be completely fine.
FINISHED 2nd, 3rd 4th, youngest
I have come every position in the top 20 bar first. I need to tick it off the bucket list.
I'm grateful to be somewhere familiar. It feels like my backyard after some of the places I have been at in the last month.
Even though, I haven't seen the course and don;t know whatto expect, I;m keen to play golf in the day and watch the footy at night.
Usually it is a hotel room, headphones on, dinner, bed.
MADE 2 of the past 3 cuts - good CONFIDENCE
It is disappointing any time you under achieve. I would say, the last month how good my game has been I haven't glued all the pieces together.
It's like the tool are sharp but I haven't made the most of it, which sucks.
I'm looking at the big picture and that i what motivates me.
I am very optimistic.
In May, I go back for the Italian Open, which is the first of eight in a row.
MAKE MOST OF NEXT PERIOD
I have to make the most of it...
HISTORY AT TOURNAMENT - bit of swagger
The NSW Open and Aust Open are tournaments i have always wanted to win. Nearly just as much as a major. I want to tick them off my bucket list.
PLAY PRO-AM at 7am
I was feeling a bit flat and the back for stiff. I did proper stretch.
The pre- qual was 11 under
I hope it doesn't play like that. Hopefully it fiorms up, thwe greens get crazy and it is as tough as possibly play.
After being around everyone, I'm so happy to be able to play the tournament again.
I remember walking around concord in the practice round. I stayed at my unle and aunties house and felt so at home.
GOOD RECORD - swagger
I know my capabilities. It doesn't mean anything but I always look forward to these tournaments.
I always relate things to the NRL - because I love it. I head a commentator say, if you are truly having a crack as an NRL player you never play a game without carrying an injury.
Golf is not the same, but you are never going to feel perfect. There is always something, whether it is travel or whatever.
USED PLAYING TOUGHER COURSES IN DEEPER FIELD - cuts help
The results haven't been what I wanted, but I'm right where I need to be. Honestly, the signs. I felt like I went four steps forward going into the LIV events and with a few equipment changes and playing on different tours, I diodn't hable it the best I could have. It was like I went 2 or 3 steps back.
Then I missed the cut at Aussie Open and Aussie PGA by one. It shatters you a little bit. Over christmas and new year when I was with family and relaxing, I had a chance to refelct.
This is perfect. I'm learning. I wan;t second guessing myself. I actually learnt a lot.
My career has been pretty awesome. I haven't had as much adversity as other peple. You have to add the good and the bad to the resume.
GROUP - Jake McLeod and Brett Colletta
It is pretty good to be in a bit of a marque group after being back in the field in Europe. I have been laast out finishing in the dark every week. Now I'm in a nice a position.
I just want to compete and compete and compete some more.