Sports stars have an uncanny ability to perfect any sport they choose and when it comes to golf, former NRL great Ben Ikin is no different.
The NRL 360 host will tee it up in this week’s Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship.
He has always been skilful with a golf club in hand but to take his game to the next level for his second attempt at the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia tournament, he once again enlisted the help of PGA Professional Matt Guyatt.
Following almost two years of lessons and a get-to-scratch plan, Guyatt, a former Tour Professional, is confident that when they return to the fairways of City Golf Club on Thursday Ikin will be ready to compete.
“We’ve had a year since the last QLD PGA and we haven’t stopped working or connecting and trying to help his game get better and better,” said Guyatt, who will tee off alongside Ikin and Anthony Quayle at 12:35pm on Thursday.
“I think this year he’s a lot more relaxed coming in and he knows what to expect a bit more. Last year he got a big shock when he stood on that first tee and realised how nervous he was. Those nerves really never left him.”
With rounds of 81 and 85 at City Golf Club in 2019, Ikin faced a tough introduced to the world of professional golf but quickly realised it wasn’t just him who succumbed to the pressure of a tournament environment.
“He felt last year that he wasn’t supposed to hit bad shots when you’re in a pro tournament but he very quickly realised that A, he was going to do that and B, so did we as Professionals,” laughed Guyatt.
“I think he’s in a lot better space this year to really come up and enjoy himself. He knows he’s got to shoot two of probably the best rounds of his life to try and make the cut but he just wants to beat last year’s scores.”
While tournament golf still elicits nerves for Guyatt, the challenge for him this week will be swapping lessons for consecutive days of tournament golf. It’s a battle he will face alongside Head Professionals John Wright, Wayne Perske, Sam Eaves and Chris Britnell.
“We’re not used to playing four days in a row anymore when for all the tour guys, that’s what they do,” he said.
“The biggest challenge is to get ourselves around the golf course. We can all do it and shoot good scores but it’s a matter of putting 72 holes together. I remember Adam Scott telling me that when I played in an Aussie Masters a few years back.
“He won and I shook his hand afterwards and he said ‘mate, you’ve had a great week and it’s just about turning 63 good holes into 72’ and for us as club pros and teaching pros it’s trying to put 18 together and put another 18 on top of that and then another 36.”
For all of his students, including Tour debutant Connor McLachlan, Guyatt believes keeping it simple and sticking to your own game is the best approach.
“It’s a matter of forgetting about everyone else,” Guyatt said. “That’s a hard thing to do but the more you do it the better you get.
“For Ben it’s about playing his most comfortable shot as often as possible. Ben knows where his skill set is and what he’s capable of doing and I really encourage him to hit his favourite shot as much as he can.
“Don’t hit a shot because it looks like the golf course is telling him to hit it right to left if right to left is not his shot. Just choose the simplest shot, that’s my motto, then rehearse the feeling and then just go. Trust the work that he’s done.”
Guyatt and Ikin are among the 156 player field including reigning champion Daniel Nisbet that will compete for the winner’s share of the $150,000 prize purse, World Golf Ranking Points and exemption on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia until the end of the 2021 season.
The Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship tees off at City Golf Club in Toowoomba this Thursday 13 February. The final two rounds of the tournament will be broadcast of FOX SPORTS and Kayo. Visit pga.org.au for broadcast times.
For Coca-Cola QLD PGA Championship tee times visit pga.org.au.