Concord Golf Club, 17 – 20 March 2022

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HAYES: Mind games key for duo’s next step

In terms of raw ability, you could throw a tissue across the top echelon of just about every domestic tournament in Australia.

So at the halfway point of the Queanbeyan Open, it’s pleasing for many that the popular duo of Jordan Zunic and James Grierson share top billing.

Their pair of four-under opening rounds today to lead the Golf Challenge NSW Open regional qualifier is important to them both for many reasons, not least of which are their recently celebrated birthdays.

Now 30 and 29 respectively, both New South Welshmen are aware the clock is ticking if they are to fulfil their wildest golfing dreams.

But both are passionately adamant that their best still lies ahead.

Zunic, a wunderkind at 23 as the New Zealand Open champion, said he fell into the trap of racing the career clock after that and wouldn’t fall for it anymore.

“At times you can have that thought, yes. But in this sport, I don’t think you should worry,” he said after his opening round today.

“I was talking to my brother (22-year-old Perth Wildcats guard Kyle Zunic) who had a laugh with me the other day saying when he’s 30, he’ll be almost finished his career as a professional basketballer, and then to look to become a coach or do something else.

“But I told him that if you watch a lot of the blokes doing big things in golf and they’re late 30s or even into their 40s, so I have more time left than him,” he said with a wide smile.

“I wish now that I had thought that when I was 24 when I was thinking, `I’ve gotta make it, I’ve gotta make it now, and it ended up putting too much pressure on myself.

“But now I feel like I’m a lot more free than I have for a long time. I remember reading an article about a year ago about how (English veteran) Lee Westwood is now just enjoying his golf a lot more, and he’s maybe never played better than the past couple of years.

“So my game feels like it’s in the best shape it’s been in for a long time, and I’m really excited to get back to Europe (Challenge Tour) this year.

“I’ve played three seasons over there and know what it’s like. I know I can compete over there, and now I just want to go and have another crack.

Zunic is coached by Queensland legend Ian Triggs and regularly talks with his mental mentor and WA great, Nick O’Hern.

“Nick and I talk a lot, and he helps me with how to get mentally ready for events and be strong out there.

“He jokes with me that he would have won majors if he hit it like me – we always have a great joke about that.

“But all I’m worried about is just working on getting better at the one percenters every day and taking the opportunity next time it comes around because, as we know, things can change very quickly in golf.”

Grierson, one of the most affable players on tour, was different as a latecomer to the PGA of Australia ranks but won’t hear a word of any suggestion that his best isn’t still ahead.

He admitted after his dazzling opening 66 that his seemingly ever-present smile hadn’t necessarily reflected his inner feelings through the first two-and-a-half years of his pro journey.

“I’ve been working on lowering my expectations, but making my standards higher,” he said.

“We all have internal expectations, and we obviously all work very hard to get to this point.

“But I’m still learning to accept a seven out of 10 shot that goes in the fairway instead of being headless that you haven’t hit the perfect shot all the time.

“I’m learning still that golf is a game of imperfect and that it’s all about how you get the ball around the golf course.

“Previously, I’d been so focused on technique and hitting the perfect shot that I’ve tried to pull that back a lot and now think, `What shot I can hit right now to make a score on this hole, right now?’.

“I guess I’m finally learning about being a pro. Just to get the best score I can (and that you) need to score your best score all the time.

“I have a much happier outlook on things. Instead of doom and gloom, it’s just to have fun. I was always good at smiling through things, but I’m genuinely much happier now.”

There are very few players who’ve travelled more kilometres than Grierson to play around Australia in the past handful of years, including his last couple as an amateur.

His only pro win to date is the Tieri Pro-Am in central Queensland among the hard-core mining towns west of Rockhampton.

But, with what he proclaims as “the best family, girlfriend and support network you could ever have”, the Forbes product is prepared to go anywhere to take the next step, even if it’s much further flung again.

“The next few months are busy around Australia now, but then I’ll look to go to Q-schools wherever possible after that.

“My family and friends would expect me to, for sure. They would look at it that it’s part of the journey to the job I’m aspiring to. In the real world, that’s like a job placement … so I’ll go anywhere to do it, no problems.”

As for tomorrow, Grierson knows it’s a chance for even more accelerated development.

“Any time you can get yourself into a new position on the golf course, that’s awesome because that means your comfort zone is getting bigger and bigger.

“I’ll have the same high standards for myself, knowing they’ll be the same shots as today.

“That’s what I’m working hard on, so it’s going to be cool to see how I handle it.”

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