Flint overcomes difficult few months for maiden win
BY Bruce Young | Von Nida Tour | 2005 New South Wales PGA Championship | Wrap | 13 Mar 2005
For 23-year-old Gavin Flint, today’s win at the NSW PGA Championship brings to an end what has been a tough five months. It highlights also, yet another young Australian making rapid transition from amateur to professional ranks.
At a time when he should have been enjoying his move into the professional ranks, Gavin has been coming to terms with the illness and then passing of his father Brian who had been very much part of his golfing life and who had provided so much encouragement to him. Brian passed away in early February after a battle with motor neuron disease.
Flint had been one of Australia’s best ever amateurs until he turned professional in November of 2004. He won the Queensland, Victorian and New South Wales amateur titles becoming the first person to hold all three titles at the one time and then added the 2004 New Zealand Amateur Championship a few months later. He then travelled to the US in mid 2004, playing several amateur events there including the Players Am in South Carolina where he finished second to fellow Australian Aaron Price.
He attended stage one of the USPGA Tour Q-School last October in Houston, missing at on advancing stage two by just one shot. He then returned to Australia where he played his first event as a professional at the Toyota Queensland PGA Championship, making the cut there and again the following week at the NSW Open before teeing it up in his first Australasian Tour event, the Australian PGA Championship. Although he led that event at Hyatt Coolum towards the end of round one, a double bogey at the last hole that day saw him slip back and although he made the cut, he struggled from that point on.
Unlike his peers James Nitties and Jarrod Lyle, who had done enough to gain status on the Australasian Tour via their exploits in the first few events of their professional career, Flint was forced to head to Tour School where he earned the Q School Medallist title by sharing the 72 hole honours with Darren Beck, but earning top status on count-back.
His first event as a fully fledged member of the Australasian PGA Tour was at the Heineken Classic where he missed the cut but perhaps given that his father had passed away just a few days earlier it was more than understandable. He headed back to Brisbane for the funeral on the Monday of the New Zealand Open and then headed out to play the New Zealand Open where he again missed the cut, this time by five. “My dad would have wanted me to keep playing,” he said at the time.
He lined up at the Jacob’s Creek Open where he missed the cut by eight, but at the New Zealand PGA Championship the next week in Christchurch, he managed to make the cut and a cheque when he finished 62nd.
He then headed to the Victorian PGA Championship at Sanctuary Lakes where things took a turn for the better when finishing 12th.
At this week’s NSW PGA Championship played over the Pambula Merimbula and Tura Beach Golf Clubs on the South Coast of NSW, Flint opened with rounds of 69 and 67 to be in 6th place at the halfway mark then added a 68 in round three to move into a share of second, three behind South Australian, Adam Bland. Three early birdies in round four however, had the Queenslander in front and he was able to go on and win by one over Tasmanian Robin Hodgetts, yet another quality amateur turned professional, and South Australian Andrew Johnson. Bland fell away in round four with a 72 to finish alone in fourth.
For Flint it provides vindication of his decision to turn pro and the confidence to make some of the decisions he will need to on his future, which he may not have been so keen to make without the victory behind him. It highlights further just what benefit the Von Nida Tour, of which the NSW PGA Tour is part, offers to emerging Australian players. In recent months we have seen Steve Bowditch win the Queensland Open and the floodgates open, Kurt Barnes win both the Queensland PGA and the Victorian Open titles, Cameron Percy win the Victorian PGA and now Flint win here. The structure that is the Von Nida Tour is fulfilling its role in allowing young players a place to play and hone their tournament skills before setting of to fields afar.
“I’m keen to play some Nationwide Tour events this year,” said Flint not long after his win today. “I will play a few more Von Nida Tour events then head to the US in the hope that I might Monday qualify for some events there”.
This coming week Flint will play in the Toyota Southern Classic at the Woolooware Golf Club in Sydney’s south.
With some tough times and a heavy heart behind him, there is every reason for optimism in the future of Gavin Flint in professional golf.
Photo – Anthony Powter