Lonard’s warning ahead of return at Senior PGA

The longest layoff of his professional career and a word of warning from his physio have hampered Peter Lonard’s preparation for this week’s Australian Senior PGA Championship at Richmond Golf Club in western Sydney.

Although Peter Senior has been prevented from defending his title due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lonard is part of a stellar field that will converge on Richmond from Thursday, the host venue for the Australian Senior PGA Championship until at least 2022.

Household names such as Peter O’Malley, Peter Fowler, Andre Stolz and Glenn Joyner are all competing for a share of the $50,000 in prizemoney following the resumption of the PGA Legends Tour last week.

No Legends Tour events were held between March 17 and July 27 and after four events in Queensland the tour resumed on October 29 with the Springwood Country Club Legends Pro-Am followed by the ICF Haulage Legends Pro-Am at Blackheath Golf Club last Friday won by Peter Fowler.

Lonard was intending to play both tournaments as a pre-cursor to this week’s 54-hole Senior PGA but the back injury that has plagued him for more than a decade didn’t cope with a return to practice, a possibility he had been previously warned about.

“The one thing that my physio did say ages ago was that I’m now at the age where I’ve just got to keep playing and practising and doing everything,” said Lonard, who received further treatment on Monday morning.

“Once you stop, it’s not going to be like when you were young and you could take a week off and come back and play. That’s when you’re going to get hurt, when you have a week or two off and then come back. That’s when you’re going to pull muscles and do your back.

“Turns out he was right!

“I played a sweepstakes day with the seniors at Oatlands and played pretty good so I was actually really looking forward to playing at Springwood and Blackheath so when my back went I was obviously very disappointed.

“Normally it takes a couple of days to repair but this time it’s taken a bit longer.

“Sunday was the first time I’d hit a ball since Tuesday so I have no expectations whatsoever other than I hope I make it and play all three rounds. And that I don’t make an idiot of myself.

“Obviously not playing and being old makes life a bit difficult.”

Originally intending to spend 2020 on the European Seniors Tour and Monday qualifying for Champions Tour events later in the year, Lonard has been based in Sydney for an extended period for the first time since he was struck down with Ross River Fever almost 30 years ago.

Doubtful as to whether he will play overseas until perhaps 2022, the 53-year-old has had to adjust to a life not on tour.

“I’ve actually enjoyed being home. I’ve travelled for 20-30 years so I’d never been in one spot for a long period of time ever,” said Lonard, who was tied for fourth at Richmond 12 months ago and is a multiple winner of both the Australian PGA Championship and Australian Open.

“I used to take two weeks off a year where I didn’t play golf and the rest of the time I practised from morning to night, tournament to tournament.

“I’ve been looking after the three-year-old and spending time with the family which is the total opposite to what I’ve ever done. That’s been interesting.

“It’s been a lifestyle for so long that it’s something that’s really hard not to do.”

As for the ball-striking that has been a hallmark of his career, Lonard is confident that the skills are still there even if some of the speed might be lacking.

“Some guys play a lot, some guys practise a lot; I practised a lot. I could hit balls all day and then go home but once you get into the seniors you have to work differently,” Lonard explained.

“Over time I’ve had to practise less. The ball-striking doesn’t vary that much but you definitely lose speed. Whether that’s age or injuries or a combination of the two you definitely lose speed, there’s no doubt about that.

“In COVID I probably took my foot off the pedal quite a bit so I’ve got a bit of weight to lose and a bit of speed to find from somewhere.”

The Australian Senior PGA Championship will be held at Richmond Golf Club from Thursday, November 5 until Saturday, November 7. For further information visit pga.org.au.

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