Brett Coletta, one of Australian golf’s hottest prospects, is turning professional.
Coletta will join the paid ranks at next week’s Singapore Open (January 19-22) and soon afterwards try his hand on the US PGA Tour.
The 20-year-old Melburnian is changing status after reaching a career-high No.7 in the world amateur rankings but, more importantly for the next phase of his career, after a string of stunning results in PGA Tour of Australasia events around Australia.
Coletta, a member of the Golf Australia national squad for the past three years, roared to prominence when he finished runner-up to good mate and fellow Australian Curtis Luck in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in September.
But having watched the chance to play in The Masters agonisingly slip through his fingers in South Korea, Coletta quickly displayed the tenacity for which he's already renowned.
The Woodlands Golf Club member became the first amateur since Stuart Appleby in 1991 to win the Queensland Open.
He backed that up with a superb runner-up finish at the New South Wales Open and then went deep again in Queensland with a T6 finish against a top international field at the Australian PGA Championship.
“It's been a big couple of months, that's for sure,” Coletta said with typical understatement.
“I have been working hard for several years to reach the point where I think my game can contend at the professional level and those results proved to me that it's time to give it a shot.
“Losing out to Curtis in the Asia-Pacific Amateur was a pretty tough hit to take, but it also taught me a lot of invaluable lessons you can't always find on the practice range.
“I think I showed it didn't affect me and that I learnt from it, so hopefully my game will stand up in Singapore and beyond.”
Coletta has signed with management company Wasserman to represent his interests, following in the steps of Jason Day, Cameron Smith and fellow Victorian Marc Leishman, with the plan to join that trio on the US PGA Tour for several tournaments during 2017.
Coletta, a member of the winning Victorian team in the 2015 Interstate Series, has already shown an aptitude for American golf, taking out medallist honours at the 2015 US Amateur.
But his mentor Marty Joyce, the Victorian national coach and head of the Victorian Institute of Sport golf program, said his game and attitude had progressed a long way since.
“He's always had great potential, but Brett's really come on this past year in terms of being consistently powerful and, just as importantly, in the mental aspect of his game,” Joyce said.
“A lesser athlete could easily have been knocked around pretty hard by what happened in Korea, but Brett has shown both his game and head are in great shape by what he's done subsequently.
“The VIS has been a great haven for Brett for his physical development, but it's also helped him a lot in his off-course progression to deal with the demands of professional golf, both on and off the course.”
Golf Australia high performance director Brad James lauded the work done by Joyce, the VIS and Golf Victoria in helping Coletta to this point in his career.
“It’s a great achievement. Brett was identified 4-5 years ago with plenty of potential and as a dynamic athlete, but he’s worked extremely hard on his pathway,” James said.
“He's taken steps forward each year and in this past few months has really blossomed and now it’s time for him to transition to the next level and that’s what we’ve been striving for.
“What Marty and his service team have implemented in recent years has been first class – it’s really showcased their program with several of those guys in that 2015 Victorian team having taken the step up to professional level already, including Ryan Ruffels, Ben Eccles and Lucas Herbert.”
An emotional Coletta was full of praise for his family and those who’ve helped shape his career to this point, dating back to his golfing roots at Sandhurst Golf Club where he was concurrently senior and junior club champion at age 16.
“My parents have always been unreal with their support, driving and flying around whenever possible just to make sure everything I needed was never far away,” Coletta said.
“We grew up basically at Sandhurst and the club was always very supportive in allowing me to practise whenever I could and then to play against the older guys and that was very important to get that exposure at a higher level when I was so young,” he said.
“Woodlands has been fantastic, too. They’ve shown great understanding of my direction and allowed me to go away and do the things I’ve needed to do to reach this stage.
“And the members of both clubs have been incredibly helpful to me over the years, both playing with me and just offering support when needed.
“I’d like to give a huge thanks to Marty, who’s just been brilliant. He and (strength and conditioning coach) Luke Mackey and (VIS coach) Darren Cole have taken my game to another level and I can’t say enough about them as people, not just coaches.
“And (sports psychologist) Noel Blundell has had a huge influence on my development, especially in the past six months.
“Everyone at Golf Victoria and Golf Australia has been great with all the positive support and feedback they’ve put into me. For them to think I was worth all the time they put into me was unbelievably important and I wouldn’t be here without them.
“I’m very happy to be part of those programs and it’s really overwhelming when you look back and see who played a part in getting me here.”