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Nick: Hey everybody. Nick Bielawski here, from the PGA. We’re here today with Tom Johnston. We’re going to talk about the recent Victorian PGA Championship that he played in as a winner of the 2018 PGA Performance Program Championship at the end of the year. Welcome Tom.
Tom: Thank you.
Nick: Oh, it’s a great intro, great intro. Tell me, the tournament you’ve just played at RACV Cape Schanck, what were the nerves like leading into that event? Obviously you’re an amateur player, still an amateur looking to be pro, playing in a professional field event.
Tom: Oh, the nerves weren’t too bad, sort of as the day went on, but obviously on the first tee when you had everyone around you watching and the guys finishing on the ninth, it was pretty full on, but it was pretty good to get one on the fairway to start with.
Nick: Yeah. Tell me about even pre-round, was that unsettling or nervy sort of being on the range with tour pros and walking around on the putting green with them?
Tom: It wasn’t so much unsettling, it was more me not real focusing on what I was doing. I was just kind of watching what they’re doing, seeing obviously what they’re like, seeing where I need to be to obviously do that in life. Yeah.
Nick: I imagine it would’ve been quite a challenging experience to, I guess, try and focus on your own game and do your own thing, but try not to be starstruck as well watching the…
Tom: Yeah, no, it was all right. It was just good to see what the pros do, I guess. Yeah.
Nick: Yeah. So the golf course that you played, RACV Cape Schanck, just describe that to the listeners.
Tom: It’s pretty pure. The conditions for the first day weren’t terrible. Second day was a bit average with the wind and the rain, and that kind of stuff coming through. But the greens were all in pretty pure, the fairways were the best I’ve ever seen them. It was good.
Nick: It’s pretty much a seaside golf course, isn’t it? It’s not too far away from the ocean. It’s, I guess, links style if you want to call it that. There’s sort of tea tree on both sides of the fairways. It’s quite a short golf course with some undulating greens.
Tom: Yeah, it was pretty full on. The tee shots are pretty demanding and you get around the greens, you’ve got to put it on the right spots and once you get to 13, and 14, 15 you get some pretty good views of the…Of the ocean, when you’re looking over National as well, it’s pretty pure.
Nick: The format for the event was, it was basically an Am-Pro, full bore event, so who was your professional playing partner?
Tom: I got paired with Andrew Campbell from Sydney.
Nick: Okay. What did you learn playing with Andrew in particular?
Tom: I learnt how to stay grounded and just basically go with the punches. I was talking to him and he made double from nowhere, a couple of bogeys from nowhere. It was just good to see how he bounced back from those and just took the punches.
Nick: Yeah. Well, I think from memory he made the cut, didn’t he, off his own ball?
Tom: Yeah, he did. Yeah.
Nick: Yeah. Yep. You got to experience somebody shooting, obviously some pretty good scores close to par, and in fairly challenging conditions.
Nick: Is there anything else that you sort of, you took from watching Andrew play? What was his ball striking like? Did you find that there was a massive difference between yourself with the ball striking and him?
Tom: Yeah, it was a big difference with the ball striking and the compression of the ball. I haven’t heard a compression sound on the golf ball like he did before. That was pretty cool. Seeing him shape the bowl, is what he did as well when he needed to. It was pretty pure.
Nick: Yeah. Was he a big mover of the golf ball. Did he hit lots of different shapes or was he quite constant and consistent with his ball flight?
Tom: It’s was pretty consistent. It was pretty straight, but if he needed to hit something into, like a left penny, he was able to hit a hard draw, or a half fade, or whatever he needed. It was good.
Nick: So the skill level was…
Tom: Yeah. It was pretty good. It was pretty carved.
Nick: It was pretty good.
Nick: Okay. And his game style, would you describe it as quite sort of attacking and offensive, or was he more of a chess player and playing for position?
Tom: It was a bit of both. He likes to play aggressive, he’d driver off the tee a couple of times when I was a bit like, “Why would you do that?” But he pulled it off. It was a bit of both. He was pretty smart on strong holes and then pretty aggressive on the easy holes.
Nick: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What was some of the, I guess, the gaps that you’ve identified in your own game from, I guess, playing with him and playing at that tournament?
Tom: Obviously skill level with shots, being wary of your own swing, mental aspect of things as well. Your behavior on the course, your demeanor, all that kind of stuff, go into it.
Nick: Yeah. I just want to touch on something you mentioned there, the mental aspect of playing. Can you just elaborate a little further on that? Are you referring more to dealing with nerves, or staying calm, or what are you thinking about there?
Tom: He was pretty strong nerve wise, he didn’t look like it affected him too much, but it was more so, obviously having bogeys from nowhere and that kind of stuff. He wasn’t getting ahead of himself. He just took the punches and then sort of moved on and tried to get it back on the next hole, or whatever.
Nick: So you describe his emotions, I guess, as quite controlled and stable.
Tom: Yeah. Very controlled.
Nick: Okay. Is there anything you think you’re going to implement in your own game moving forward?
Tom: Yeah, definitely. I was talking to him about a mentor and that kind of stuff. Obviously someone to look up to, play golf with, so you can learn how they play, and then we’ll just keep training, and that kind of stuff, and work on it from there.
Nick: That’s great. Well, thanks so much for your time today, Tom.
Tom: Thank you for having me.
Nick: All right. Talk to you soon.