Straight-talking Aussie pro Peter Lonard could have taken advantage of an exemption and had this year off to fully recover from injury – but instead he’ll be teeing off tomorrow in the first round of the NZ Open.
The 42-year-old New South Welshman lost his United States PGA tour card in 2009 for the first time in eight years, making only 13 of 30 cuts and finishing 164th on the money list.
He wasn’t helped by a lower back injury which first flared up in 2008 and recurred towards the end of last year, forcing him to withdraw from the United States Tour School’s final qualifying stage.
Because he had held his PGA card for five years he had a year’s exemption on the Nationwide Tour which he could take either this year or next.
“I was 50-50 whether to have this year off and get properly fit and probably would have done that if I was younger, but I’m getting a bit over the hill so thought I’d better keep going,’’ Lonard said before today’s pro-am at The Hills.
The seven-time winner on the Australasian tour, including the 2003 and 2004 Australian Opens, Lonard, also a winner on the United States PGA tour, was naturally disappointed at losing his card but was determined not to let it handicap him this year.
“I don’t think anyone likes being unemployed so I didn’t really enjoy it much at the end of last year. But that’s the beauty of the game – you play good and get the benefits, you don’t play any good and you’ve got to deal with the consequences so here I am starting again,’’ Lonard says.
“I’m at the age where I’ve got to fire up this year if I’m going to get back. If I don’t I’ll have to go and do something else.’’
Asked if he could have asked for a medical exemption instead of playing through the pain barrier, Lonard was blunt in his reply: “Medical exemptions are more for those guys who are dying. Just because you’ve got a bit of a sore back I don’t think that’s reason to ask for medicals.
“You go to the physio – just about everyone over the age of 30 is carrying an injury. It’s pretty much wear and tear of doing it (playing golf) for 20 or more years continuously, travelling, sleeping in hotel beds and on planes.
“When you’re young you don’t notice it. As you get older you start to get niggles and it’s whether you can manage them or whether they get too chronic.’’
Lonard had almost two months off before picking up the clubs only a week ago, but he declared himself in good health.
“I haven’t walked 18 holes yet so I’ll probably know more tomorrow (after the pro-am). But I can stand on the range and pound balls all day and feel pretty good about it.’’
Lonard has no high expectations for his first tournament at the Hills: “I’d like to think I can get myself into a position where I have the opportunity to win or at least play four consistent rounds and feel healthy at the end. If I walk away finishing in the top half of the field and healthy then I’d be pretty happy.’’