Date: February 05, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Eccles right at home in pro ranks

Ben Eccles carded a 69 today to slide quietly into Oates Vic Open contention.

Amid a rash of low scores and storylines, it slipped under the guard of many.

He will play better rounds and most certainly have better scores.

Yet at -5, he has nudged within reach of a title he holds dearly, on one of his home courses just up the road from his family’s Torquay base.

On face value, it’s not far removed from the title tilt he put on last year at 13th Beach when he finished tied third behind Richard Green and alongside Scott Arnold and Ryan Ruffels.

In reality, it’s vastly different.

Eccles, 20, is now a professional – and turning rapidly into a damn good one after a year, in hindsight, that has given him great confidence that he belongs.

He played in the final group at the Victorian PGA Championship last year, then went unbeaten in captaining Victoria to the Interstate title.

He led for large parts of the revered Canadian Amateur Championship in August before finishing sixth and then played a handful of early summer Australian PGA Tour events in the knowledge he would soon join the pay-for-play ranks.

That decision was effectively rubber-stamped in early November when he won the NSW Open as an amateur and took the plunge on the eve of the Australian Masters.

Since that point, Eccles – renowned by his coaches for a prolific work ethic – has signed with European-based management group ISM – a company that has already booked him starts in upcoming South African events before he returns home for the Perth International.

In short, he’s got it going on.

For all the world it looks as if Eccles will be there when the whips are cracking on Sunday.

While a pro for just three short months, he’s playing a game that suggests the lessons he’s learnt in VIS ranks – and that have earnt him promotion to the Golf Australia rookie pro squad – have soaked in superbly.

His misses are minimal, he has a lot of kick-in pars and his ability to quickly overcome setbacks are all hallmarks of seasoned and successful professionals.

Eccles was followed by a horde of local admirers today and he engaged with almost all during his round, offering smiles and conversations as it was a pennant practice session.

Yet over every stroke, he gave it his all as if it was the Open Championship itself.

If you haven’t already, put the name Ben Eccles in your black book of golfers to watch.

If he’s not here already, he’s not far away.