Power Horan better prepared for Gippsland Super 6 defence

It’s a victory he is still struggling to comprehend but defending champion Tom Power Horan has issued an ominous warning to those who covet his Gippsland Super 6 crown: This time I’m ready.

After a 10-month wait the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia resumes this week with the Gippsland Super 6 tournament at Yallourn Golf Club, an event that has had to wait 14 months for a second staging after a dramatic introduction in November 2019.

The format consists of three rounds of strokeplay followed by a final day of medal matchplay knockout golf for the top 24 players but the inaugural event was so disrupted by rain that players raced the sun on Sunday evening to complete a third round of strokeplay and ensure its status as an official result.

That final result saw Power Horan edge Brady Watt in a two-man Sunday showdown, no one more surprised than the champion himself.

With a game he was convinced had deserted him and his sister Jen beginning chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Power Horan stepped away from a game that was no longer fun to play for more than a year following the 2018 NT PGA Championship.

Curious as to where his game was placed after a lengthy layoff, Power Horan attended Monday qualifying for the Victorian PGA Championship. He qualified, finished tied for 18th and headed to Yallourn two weeks later encouraged yet devoid of expectation.

That he won remains something of a sporting mystery.

“During tournament week I’d entered the rest of the events for the year as well as Q School,” said Power Horan.

“All of a sudden I’d won so I didn’t have to pre-qualify and I wasn’t even a member at that point. I couldn’t even play a pro-am. It was a really big change.

“It was a few months later when it hit me. Winning on tour is a forever thing. Status comes and goes but you can always say that you won on the tour which is still very odd to me.

“It’s a really nice thing to be able to say. It is forever. I’ll always be the 2019 champion. Being able to say that I won on tour is still quite surreal.”

Based in Melbourne, Power Horan has suffered the same fate as the majority of Victorian professionals in that he has had to undertake a COVID-19-enforced break from professional golf.

In contrast to his preparation for the 2019 event where he didn’t play a full round of 18 holes anywhere prior to the Victorian PGA qualifying, Power Horan has at least had some competitive exposure the past two weeks.

He finished tied for 17th in his first start back on January 8 at the SBI Settlers Run Golf & Country Club Pro-Am and tied for eighth at the Big Garage Subaru Bairnsdale Pro-Am, results that established a sense of confidence that simply didn’t exist when he last arrived at Yallourn.

“When I stopped playing (in 2019) I was really struggling and then felt like I was playing a bit better whereas this time I had COVID off and I’ve been playing quite a lot lately,” revealed Power Horan.

“Comparing before Yallourn last time and this time, I’ve been playing a lot of rounds. I play golf with all my friends at Royal Melbourne and I play a lot of golf now, and I enjoy playing.

“Before (Yallourn in 2019) I never played. I wouldn’t put handicap rounds in, I’d just muck around.

“Before Settlers Run two weeks ago I had been playing competitive rounds in the Saturday comp, which is much more legitimate than playing six holes after work.

“This time I do feel like I’m playing quite well.”

But given the drought of tournament golf available to Aussie professionals and the quality of the golfers in the country at present, Power Horan knows he’ll have to play well to defend his crown amongst such illustrious names.

“I look at the names in the field such as Geoff Ogilvy, Marcus Fraser, guys who play in Europe and Japan, for a smaller event in Yallourn it’s quite an incredible field,” conceded Power Horan, who used the COVID layoff to begin studying for an MBA.

“If you had that pro-am list for an Australian Open pro-am, you wouldn’t think twice. That’s what it looks like, which is really exciting.

“I’m not one to dwell on the past but it will be nice to go back and remember some things that happened during the week that maybe I’ve forgotten about.”

Headlines at a glance