There are two blokes who won’t be around Concord this weekend, both of whom once would have been almost walk-up starts.
Strangely to some – but absolutely not themselves – neither will care.
The Golf Challenge New South Wales Open has long since become a “nice to have” for Brendan Jones and Chris Campbell, as opposed to the driving motivation it might once have been and still is for every young title aspirant in the field.
Jones, 46, a genuine legend on the Japanese Tour who was once reached No.52 in the world, joked before he missed the cut yesterday by a shot at even par, that he would likely be the “best performed landscaper” in the field.
“I’m here because the head pro here, David Northey (director of coaching) asked me to come, no other real reason,” Jones said candidly.
“I don’t want it to sound the wrong way, but golf is a job for me these days.
“The love I used to have for the game has diminished over the years and having Covid around, it’s given me a chance to assess what’s next in my life.
“So I’ve been landscaping for a mate in Canberra for the last month or so and loving it. I’ll be qualified by end of the year at the current rate,” he joked.
“There’s been a year of not knowing what you’re doing. Now another year of sitting on my bum and really just waiting at this stage (for details of a return to Japan), so instead of just doing that I’m going out and doing something. The weeks are going faster and I’m really loving it.
“Landscaping might not be my future, but hopefully it’ll get me through the year before vaccines kick in, international borders open and then I can travel again.
“But I want to be travelling on my terms – I don’t want to be told I can go, but that I have to be in this hotel for this length of time, I want to be able to leave Australia and come back to my place when I want to.
“Thankfully, I’m in that part of my career that I’m lucky enough to be able to do that.”
Campbell, 45, has also been a winner on the Japan Tour and reached the top 200 in the world rankings in 2005, the year he also qualified for The Open Championship.
But three children and a change in priorities has given him a totally new outlook on golf – including reclaiming his amateur status.
It’s hard to imagine the precise circumstances, but a skateboarding injury involving being towed by his dog, Tex, severely broke the Illawarra resident’s arm.
“They told me I’d never straighten it again because my elbow was really stuffed. They put it all back together and it was at a 30-degree angle and said, `That’s it’,” said Campbell, who fired rounds of 74-73 this week.
“But eventually I got it straight and played a few events (and) finished dead last every time, even in pro-ams, because I couldn’t practise.
“I thought, `What am I doing?’.
“I’m actually going to make as much money being an amateur and having fun as I would being pro.
“So it was an easy decision. Now I can play good golf courses in one-day amateur events like New South Wales Cup and shoot my 75-75, almost a `wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ and go home.
“And I’ll have exactly the same amount of money in my pocket,” he joked.
Campbell, like Jones, is more than content in his life, which for him now revolves around family, fun and his job as a building certifier.
And after the intensity of the first half of his professional career, things have changed markedly in his mind, too.
“I enjoy golf way more now,” he said.
“Once if I went away on holidays, I’d pack my clubs and try to get in some practice, but now I’m lucky if I pack a pair of shoes – it’s just thongs and surfboard and away I go.
“I want to keep golf social and stress-free and then have the crazy idea to do something like this and then ask myself why.
“I still want to push myself occasionally … and I’m still playing off a +4 handicap … but because I don’t practise, I think my chances of playing my best golf each round is about one in five and I just don’t feel like I have the consistency.
“I’m shooting regular five-unders at home (Port Kembla), but I really don’t care that much, it’s a good position to be in.”