Nathan Barbieri is all about momentum.
He was a gritty and determined member of his first New South Wales state amateur team in 2018.
But by the time he took the professional plunge two years later, he was arguably the nation’s top male player – polished and capable.
Among his last hurrahs in the amateur ranks, the affable Sydneysider was third in the Northern Territory PGA and visibly proving his progress would work at the next level.
He was a brilliant third in an entertaining finale to the TPS Victoria early this year in just his second pro start on the Australasian PGA Tour, prominent in the Queensland Open and then pushed eventual winner Bryden Macpherson all the way for the final 36 holes until he eventually broke late in final group at the Golf Challenge NSW Open at Concord in March.
By any measure, it was a great start.
And anyone who has ever met the 24-year-old will know just how enthusiastic he is about competition as much as his passion for golf.
So it’s safe to say he took Covid pretty hard.
Barbieri would never whinge about it; he knows well that a delayed golf career is small fry in the scheme of global events.
But the man all his mates call simply “Barbs” is now an uncaged lion and, on the doorstep of Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo, he’s hoping his trip to this week’s Western Open will soon have him ready to roar again.
“It was tough, very tough. I still did the practice, but the motivation for the events wasn’t there. But we got through it,” Barbieri said today after showing several signs of his brilliance in the pro-am at Dubbo Golf Club.
“I’m just getting back into that routine and I’m really keen to get back and play a lot of tournaments now.
“I probably had a dream start to my professional career. Had a couple of top-fives finishes and was in the last group at the New South (Wales) Open and I learnt so much along the way.
“I was just really feeling ready to let go and keep going, then just `bang’.
“It was such an unfortunate thing, but it happens. It obviously affected a lot of people.
“I wouldn’t say I’m stronger on the way out right now, but I’m working towards it and it’s all just learning curves.
“Things just happen like this in golf, so you just get on with it.
“It definitely won’t hamper me in the long run. It might take a couple of events to get back to where I was, but I’m just keen to get back into a run of events.
“I’ve got a few lined up before Christmas and then back again next year and hopefully overseas at some time.”
Barbieri is too calm to be flustered by having a target on his back as one of the rising stars of Australian golf.
His bold start as a professional has already reinforced to him that his game will stack up.
“I hope people think I can win here, but (regardless) I’m still playing my own game,” he said.
“I’m a confident player and … I feel like I can step it up to match these guys when I need to.
“Playing alongside Bryden in the NSW Open, he’s obviously a phenomenal player. But in that third round we matched each other with birdies all day. I didn’t do it on the last day, but I learnt a lot watching him.
“I’m just looking forward to competition golf again and making birdies.”
Barbieri said soft conditions in Dubbo this week would create a birdie festival and he predicted a winning score in the 12-15 under par range would be required for victory in the 36-hole NSW Open qualifier, the second in the Golf NSW series.