In racing terms, Blake Windred had jumped clear of the stalls in his maiden debut, found his stride and settled into his work, only for stewards to step in and cancel the race less than a furlong in.
Top 10 in his first two starts as a professional and tied for 16th at the Australian Open in December at the course he calls home, The Australian Golf Club, Windred went into 2020 with an eye to graduating to the European Tour by the end of the year.
The coronavirus pandemic that threw the world golf schedule into disarray put paid to those plans yet Windred refused to wallow in self pity, instead dedicating himself to practice that will pay off when opportunity knocks again.
“I feel like I’ve treated this period of my career pretty well actually,” said Windred, who finished inside the top 30 at the Vic Open, Queensland Open and New Zealand Open before his tournament schedule was temporarily placed on hold.
“I’ve been able to stick to training every day and feel like I’ve gotten fitter and stronger and gotten better on the golf side of things.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’m still very motivated and trying to get ready for when my opportunity does come around.
“I don’t look at it as though I am practising for an event in six weeks’ time. I think about it as a journey. This is just what I do every day. This is my work, so why should I get to take six weeks off just because there are no tests in six weeks?
“It doesn’t make sense in my head so that’s why I kept going hard at it. That’s something I’m trying to pride myself on, working hard, so no reason to stop.”
Working with Gary Barter at The Australian, it was the podcasts that provide the backdrop to his practice routine that first alerted the 22-year-old Novocastrian that 2020 wasn’t going to pan out the way he had originally planned.
“I was practising at The Australian and I started listening to podcasts – just the usual ones I tend to listen to all day while I’m practising,” Windred revealed.
“On one of the podcasts he started talking about how the country could go into lockdown. I couldn’t believe it.
“We talked about it at dinner that night but it still seemed far-fetched at that time. But then all of a sudden everyone was going to the supermarkets to stock up on food.
“From there a lot of the golf professionals that I spend time with who play on the Australasian Tour and in Asia started saying that we might not be playing for the rest of the year.
“That was kind of shocking to hear but at the same time I felt like I couldn’t have handled it any better.”
An unexpected reward to present itself recently has been the invitation to join TAG Heuer as an ambassador for the brand new Golf Edition of the third generation Connected watch.
Released in June 2020, the watch is the second Golf Edition from TAG Heuer created specifically for the golf community following the success of the first edition presented in 2019 alongside the TAG Heuer Golf app.
Given it comes loaded with features such as 3D mapping of some 40,000 courses, distances to hazards and shot tracking in a classical look synonymous with TAG Heuer, Windred is unlikely to be allowed to wear it in competition but already has a special occasion in mind to show it off.
“It looks amazing. For me, it was a bit of a surprise when I got the e-mail to be even associated with a prestigious brand such as TAG Heuer,” said Windred.
“It’s nearly like getting a start in a big tournament. I feel things like this may pop up in my career if you work hard, be a good person and play good golf.
“I probably won’t be able to wear it during tournaments but hopefully one day when I’m holding up a trophy I’ll have it on.”
As for his prospects of tournament golf in 2020, Windred says he will be on the first plane to Europe once a schedule is confirmed.
The next event on the Challenge Tour calendar yet to be cancelled or postponed is the Euram Bank Open in Austria from July 16 and Windred is prepared to play mini tours in the meantime.
Windred’s management Modest! Golf – a company headed up by music superstar Niall Horan – recently entered into a partnership with the Clutch Pro Tour that offers playing opportunities throughout Europe, an opportunity Windred is open to exploring.
“Even if the Challenge Tour wasn’t on this year at all I’d pay good money to go and compete overseas right now,” said Windred.
“I feel like it can’t be too far away. If there are all these plans for the PGA TOUR, Korn Ferry Tour and then into European Tour… The boys were talking about maybe not getting out this year but I just find that hard to believe.
“I’ll be doing everything I can to get overseas as soon as possible.”