Brazel welcomes bolstered field for Mackay Pro-Am - PGA of Australia

Brazel welcomes bolstered field for Mackay Pro-Am

Defending champion Sam Brazel has urged more young players to cut their teeth on the pro-am circuit ahead of a bolstered PIMS Group Mackay Pro-Am in Mackay starting Thursday.

Dating back to a four-day event worth $60,000 almost a decade ago, this year’s two-day adidas PGA Pro-Am Series event at Mackay Golf Club boasts $51,500 in prize money, an increase of 94 per cent on last year and almost five times the amount played for in 2021.

The increase in prize purse has the potential to make Brazel’s hopes of repeating wins in 2021 and 2023 all that more challenging.

Fellow DP World Tour winner Marcus Fraser joins the likes of Deyen Lawson, Kade McBride and Jake McLeod at the 36-hole event starting Thursday along with Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia players John Lyras and Elvis Smylie.

Also hungry for tournament success is the new crop who have recently turned professional, former amateur stars Jye Pickin and Connor McDade now forging a new path in the pro ranks.

Winner of the 2016 Hong Kong Open and with extensive international experience in Asia and Europe along with a WGC appearance in 2017, Brazel believes his grounding playing pro-ams throughout Australia was invaluable in his early development.

“It’s a great opportunity for the younger crew to get out there and learn their trade on different styles of golf courses,” said Brazel.

“It’s a very, very good learning curve. More players should be subjected to it. I think they’d be better players because of it.

“Greg Norman used to play pro-ams back in his day when he was around.

“There’s a rich history of pro-ams in this country. You look at some of these little mining towns and the honour boards of those pro-ams, there are some pretty impressive names on there.

“It’s great to see the field strengthening and I think it’s a really good way to learn your trade, get a bit more mentally tough whilst actually earning a few bucks.”

Based in Lismore in northern New South Wales but doing much of his practice out of Ballina and Ocean Shores, Brazel estimates that he first played the Mackay Open more than 20 years ago.

With two wins and a top-five finish the past three years he has made the Mackay layout his own, but concedes it wasn’t always that way.

“My early years were a bit lean around there actually,” said Brazel, who was tied for sixth at the Lexus Townsville Classic a fortnight ago.

“There are multiple holes where you’ve got to shape it both ways and positional play off the tee is important.

“There are a multitude of tee shots that require a different shape to them, so it kind of suits my game because I like to think that I can shape it both ways and plot my way around the golf course.”

Praising the event’s organisation by Mackay Golf Club Head Professional Jeff Reid, staff and members, Brazel says the golf course is blessed with a great variety of golf holes and ways in which to play them.

“A couple of reachable par 5s, a couple of short par 4s including one reachable par 4 where you can make three or seven,” he adds.

“It’s that sort of golf course that you really need to think your way around. You can play it probably four or five different ways depending on what the wind’s doing and how your game’s feeling.

“You can navigate a way around it if you’ve got the tools.”

Round 1 draw

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