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Australia's new wave grabs attention at Aus PGA

Dimi Papadatos in fine form ahead of the Australian PGA Championship (Photo: Bruce Young)
While Australian golf fans will be keen to see their World Cup team of Mac Leishman and Cameron Smith perform well at this week’s Australian PGA Championship, the opportunity exists at RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast to see some of this country’s most exciting emerging talent build on their growing reputations.

Smith is, of course, the defending champion having won in a playoff over Jordan Zunic last year while Leishman is currently Australia’s second highest world ranked men's player and last year finished 4th in this event.

Both players gave indications of their current form with a barnstorming weekend at last week’s ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf and will start as two of the favourites to take the title but there are many young and less experienced Australians who could well steal their thunder.   

Cameron Davis, Lucas Herbert, Curtis Luck, Jordan Zunic, Dimi Papadatos, Jake McLeod and Anthony Quayle are very much the new breed of Australian golf professionals.

Davis, Papadatos, Zunic and McLeod are already winners in their first few years in the pro ranks and while the likes of Herbert, Luck and Quayle are yet to taste victory in the paid ranks, they have already displayed the sort of skills required to not only win but to win multiple events.

Cameron Davis - already an Australian Open Champion.

Cameron Davis is arguably the most exciting of the group given he has already won an Australian Open, a Web.Com Tour event and secured his PGA Tour card less then two years after turning professional.

The lightly-framed but powerful New South Welshman has made the cut in four of his five starts as a PGA Tour cardholder and if he was to add an Australian PGA Championship to his Australian Open victory so early in his career few would be surprised.

Curtis Luck - an outstanding amateur career being followed by encouraging start as a professional.

Luck has admittedly won at a professional level although not as a professional when winning the 2016 WA Open and as a US Amateur and Asia-Pacific Amateur champion he brings serious credentials to this week’s event.

Now a PGA Tour player, Luck is on the big stage just over 18 months after turning pro after making the cut at the 2017 Masters.

Lucas Herbert - a brilliant season in Europe.

Victorian Herbert may, too, not have won as a professional but he has made quite an impression having secured his European Tour card after beginning the year with little status anywhere in the world.

He eventually finished 47th in the Race to Dubai after being inside the top 3 in European Tour events on four occasions in 2018.

It was an amazing performance given that he was seldom sure of securing starts and stamps Herbert as a player more than capable of winning this week if things go his way.

Anthony Quayle - an impressive first season on the Japan Tour

Two years ago, Quayle sat for seven hours in the clubhouse at RACV Royal Pines waiting for a start at the Australian PGA Championship while a first alternate for the event.

He missed out on that start despite a European Tour player being forced to withdraw at the last moment and officials, perhaps surprisingly, being unable to find him and while that was a disappointing start to his pro career, Quayle has gone on to significant success.

A Queensland-based Northern Territorian, Quayle has impressively retained his Japan Tour status this year in what was his debut season there and finished runner-up at the Crowns Tournament in Nagoya and the Fiji International on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

Dimi Papadatos - recently runner-up at Australian Open 

Papadatos finished runner-up to Abraham Ancer at the recent Australian Open, pushing him hard over the closing round.

The NSW golfer has won four times as a professional including the New Zealand Open, Victorian Open, WA PGA and a 2018 Challenge Tour event.

He was unable to secure European Tour status after being disqualified from the Challenge Tour finale at the start of this month, he chose not to attempt Final Stage qualifying for Europe.

This week offers the opportunity for Papadatos, in the form he is in, to win an event that would provide him with European Tour status due to the tournament’s joint sanctioning with the European Tour and the heartache of his Challenge Tour mishap, already diluted by his great effort in Sydney, would be softened even further.

Jake McLeod - the winner of the NSW Open and 3rd at the Australian Open.

Queenslander McLeod is in his second season as a professional and has done remarkably well, winning his first event, the NSW Open, three weeks ago and then contending in the final round of the Australian Open before finishing 3rd.

He continues to surprise in the pro ranks but with seven top tens in 2018 in Australasian Tour events a win this week would not be the surprise it might have been a month ago.

Jordan Zunic - the runner-up last year and winner of recent Queensland Open.

Zunic agonisingly lost a playoff to Smith in this event last year and for much of 2018 has struggled until winning the Queensland Open recently.

A former New Zealand Open winner, Zunic displayed some of his best golf 12 months ago and his recent return to form suggests that atonement for his near miss last year is more than just a remote hope.

Of course there are more potential chances amongst Australia’s emerging players than just those mentioned above but they are the standouts at this stage.

Another might join them by Sunday but the growing strength of the next wave of young Australian players should provide plenty of excitement this week either way.

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