Watching the world’s best players at close quarters convinced Victorian Rory Bourke he could refine his game to become a competitive tournament professional.
Bourke, who quit golf for a period to caddie for players paired with the likes of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowall and Ian Poulter, leads the Isuzu Queensland Open after 36 holes at Brookwater.
The 27-year old followed his opening 68 with a solid second round 71 to be at five-under after 36 holes, a stroke ahead of David Bransdon, Michael Sim and Matthew Millar who all carded 71s.
On a packed leaderboard, 11 players are within two shots of the lead. Experienced Kiwi Mark Brown, who played himself into the mix with a 67 in difficult afternoon conditions, is one of seven players at three-under for the tournament.
Bourke endured a rough start after turning pro in 2012 and decided to shelve his clubs and caddie for Korean-born Jin Jeong, a mate from their amateur days in Melbourne. Jin Jeong struck early paydirt as a pro when he won the 2013 Perth International with Bourke on the bag.
“I went to Europe caddying for Jin and was fortunate to have been involved in groups that included some of the world’s best players,’’ said Bourke.
“I also talked a lot with Martin Kaymer and took a lot from the whole experience. It showed me what you need to do to be successful. “Those players don’t make mistakes like a lot of amateurs or younger pros. They tighten up a few things and it goes from there.’’
Bourke returned from Europe resigned to reigniting his professional career and was successful at last year’s Australasian PGA Tour qualifying school.
“I’ve played at tournaments like the Queensland Open for a couple of years and a win this week for be massive for me. It would get me a start in a few big Australian events later in the year and provide a bit of money for me to have a go at some q-schools overseas.’’
Bourke had a strong amateur career in Victorian, representing the state for five years, and also contested the US and British amateur championships and finished runner-up at the Scottish amateur.
“I had a decent amateur career,’’ he said. “That’s where I met and became good mates with Jin …”
New Zealander Brown’s 67 was the best of the day and was equalled by Rohan Blizard and Scott Laycock who are at two-under and one-over respectively.
“It’s a tough track and it was tricky this afternoon,’’ said Brown. “Fairways are tight and the greens small … it is a very strong test.
“Shooting five-under certainly moves me up the board.’’
Brown has performed well internationally and won the 2008 Johnny Walker Classic in India. Next week he will play the Russian Open on the European Tour.
Overnight joint leader Daniel Valente got to five-under with two holes to play but a double-bogey on his penultimate hole resulted in a 73.
New South Welshman Aaron Townsend played well for a 69 after dropping a shot on his final hole to be two strokes adrift of Bourke.
“Every hole is a bogey-in-waiting here so you have to be careful,’’ said Townsend.
“I’m not overly long but I hit it pretty straight and putted nicely. But I’d like to get my iron play a bit sharper.”
Queenslander Gavin Flint, who shared the first round lead, carded a 73 to be two shots off the pace.
The cut was indicative of the testing Brookwater layout at five-over par with a number of prominent players failing to qualify for the weekend. Casualties included tournament favourite Brad Kennedy, Matt Griffin, Steven Leaney and Jake Higginbottom.
LEADERBOARD (36 holes)
5-under: R Bourke (Vic)
4-under: D Bransdon (Vic), M Sim (WA), M Millar (ACT)
3-under: E Stedman (NSW), A Townsend (NSW), R Beaufils (Qld), M Brown (NZ), M Choi (Vic), D Valente (Vic), Gavin Flint (Qld)
2-under: S Jeffress (NSW), R Blizard (WA), M Guyatt (Qld), M Wright (Qld)