As strange as it sounds, Blake Windred’s been here before.
Sure, he hasn’t got that big breakthrough professional victory that so many in Australian golf are so eager to see.
But while his off-course demeanour is always contagiously cheery, his wicked smile is a front for a fierce and determined warrior within.
And this week at the Golf Challenge NSW Open, the world might finally see it.
The New South Welshman’s last big hurrah as an amateur was stunning, coming within one average round of lifting one of the world’s most sought prizes, the Asia-Pacific Amateur.
This became noteworthy at Concord today as the 23-year-old bolted to the early lead.
Just as he did in Shanghai in 2019, he will play with the weight of expectation on his ample shoulders for the next three rounds.
Thankfully, this is not news to Windred, earmarked by many for a breakthrough professional win and a title he’s coveted since he first strode the fairways at his home club, Charlestown.
As the youngest player to have ever qualified to play the NSW Open – as a 13-year-old a decade ago near his home base at Newcastle Golf Club – he has always thought himself capable of hoisting the Kel Nagle Cup.
But being in a position to win something so cherished is one thing; getting the monkey off the back and saluting is entirely another.
That it’s the season-ending and largest event on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia adds a little spice.
That he’ll likely have to fend off a phalanx of over-qualified Aussie champions to do it douses it with jalapeno sauce.
But if you’re nervous for Windred, you needn’t fear.
For a young man technically in new territory, he couldn’t have responded better to the inevitable post-round questions, some based on the imposing list of champions snapping at his heels.
“I’m sure when those guys were my age, they were seen as the `new wave’ and now I feel like I’m a part of that here and, to be honest, it’s a bit of a blessing to be able to hopefully get into contention with the legends of Australian golf,” Windred said.
“Good golf is good golf, no matter who plays it. There’s no reason it can’t be me.
“I guess these guys are just experienced, and I might learn a thing or two about it this week.”
Some good judges feel that Windred’s first professional win could snowball into many more.
And the man himself has that belief that he’s ready to take the most important step for all emerging stars – the first one.
“The first couple of times, three or so years ago, that I was in positions like this, I didn’t know how to handle it,” he readily confessed.
“But if I didn’t go through things like Asian Amateur (when he led with an opening 63 only to eventually be run down in the final round), I wouldn’t be the player I am today.
“I’ve been starting to get a better handle on just being in contention mentally.
“I think it’s starting to click, to make more sense to me.
“My golf is so much better rounded than what I played at Asian Am, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what I’ve learnt and how I’ve progressed.”