Date: January 31, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Bryden bucks the norm


Bryden Macpherson knew it wasn’t time for niceties.

He picked up the phone midway up the 15th hole of the final round of the European Tour’s stage two Q-school in Spain last year and confirmed a flight to China that he’d had on standby.

It wasn’t the done thing. But the Victorian simply didn’t care. He’s beyond worrying what others think.

Hours later, the 27-year-old was winging his way to Nanjing for the continuation of the China Golf Tour season. He finished third in China that week as he pushed towards his goal of qualifying for the European Tour, already happily with the Q-school route in the rear-view mirror.

This is how Macpherson lives. On the edge. Taking chances. Never letting either the dream die, nor past foibles stand in his path.

As it turned out, he ultimately lost a playoff in Xiamen to China’s Bowen Xiao – and the money list title to Korean Rak Hyun Cho by roughly $190 over the course of the season.

But as you sit and listen to Macpherson talk as he prepares for the Oates Vic Open, you realise it’s just a bump in the road, not a cause for any radical restructure of a career that has only begun to realise the great promise it has threatened since he won The Amateur Championship in 2011 to set up a Masters appearance in 2012.

“I was near a good European card and that would have made 2018 look different … but it was so close to happening,” he said in a rare moment of reflection.

“What you can’t do is step back and say, `I’m not good enough’. That’s not a valid concern.

“What you can say is that, `I am good enough, it just didn’t fall my way’, go away, get better and come back next year and win it by $10,000.

“It’s such a small amount that luck plays a part and I got on the wrong side of it. Hopefully I won’t next time.”

Macpherson has twice played full seasons on the Web.Com Tour, but has not yet managed to take the next step to the US PGA Tour he hopes to one day call home.

He says it has twice all but bankrupted him.

Yet he refuses steadfastly to give up the dream, including “settling” for playing on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.

The second time he fell from Web grace, as recently as the end of 2016, Macpherson briefly delved into other jobs to get a taste of the “real world”. But even then, and without a tour to play on, he wouldn’t bury his dream.

“I had nothing at the start of last year, no status anywhere, including Australia. I haven’t had time to commit to the Australian Tour, which is a pity because I love playing at home,” he said.

“But it feels to me like I’m in my comfort zone and I’m a person who tries to be tripping over myself forwards trying to get out of my comfort zone – which is evident in my career so far.

“I have no problem taking leaps, even if you normally get burnt, because that’s how you grow as a person. I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.”

One of those leaps came at the expense of his long-time coach and even father figure Denis McDade, who Macpherson partially credits with keeping him on track even through the darkest moments.

“I’m a loyal person by nature. I stick to what I do and my word until someone proves to me otherwise,” Macpherson said.

“I’d been with Denis for 10 years and he’s been like a second dad to me. He’d been there the whole way through and I’m forever grateful. But even he agreed something needed to be radically different and that was when we decided to find someone in the US.

“A bit over a year ago, I started working with Craig Harmon, who keeps insisting that he’s just as good as his brother Butch, it’s just he hasn’t had good players yet,” joked Macpherson, who’s hopeful it signified a change of luck.

“At the start of last year, the PGA Tour China wasn’t really happening and the Chinese guys involved with the China Golf Association saw an opportunity to jump in and do things on their own terms,” he said.

“So the CGA Tour materialised out of nowhere and then even more out of nowhere, they gave a two-year winners’ exemption retroactively, so it took in the 2015 winners (PGA Tour China) of which I was one.

“I found out on the putting green at a mini tour event in China. So suddenly I had somewhere to play. I had no money, but that’s just the Web tour – unless you succeed, it bankrupts you, which has happened to me twice.

“I wasn’t spinning my wheels in terms of my golf with Craig now, but the China thing came out of nowhere and I was like, `Let’s go play golf!’.

“It felt like I got a break for the first time – which was amazing, because at the end of 2016, I could very easily have been in a potentially bad time, a bad headspace where you could pack it up and off you go. It forced me to look at other ways to make income and that’s a good experience.

“But the thing about golf is it’s not only about who’s good enough, but who can keep going.

”You need breaks and to get lucky, maybe to come down and scrape the barrel of bankruptcy before you take off again and get back in the game.

“Whether it’s a good result at the right time, or a golfing angel helping you out, or friends, whatever … you need to find a way to keep going.

“So when China started up around May, they put together a schedule with a promise, but not much else. It was pie in the sky, and a lot of guys were put off by it, but I was just happy to be playing golf again. I went over there, was second in the first event, won the second event and suddenly I’m not bankrupt again. 

“I was thinking about it in the cab back to the hotel after that event, about how close you can come to giving up – but I don’t want to say that because I move on, I never give up.

“But I was close to choosing a different path in my life, whatever that may be, and having things feel bad and tough, but managing to pull yourself out is a great feeling and what it’s all about.”

There’s a strong chance, unless you were at the Australian Open at Royal Sydney in 2013 when he finished fourth behind Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, that you haven’t had the chance to watch Macpherson.

But rest assured, if he’s around the mark this week at 13th Beach, it will make one hell of a story – and one he’s extremely confident is only partially written.