Brendan Goddard made his name as a brilliant AFL player with two clubs; a year into his retirement from that pursuit, his obsession with golf is only growing.
Goddard, the former St Kilda and Essendon player, is taking it a step further in the next week. He has entered himself in the Port Phillip Open Amateur at Kingston Heath and Commonwealth starting on 14 November, which is the launching pad for the Victorian Amateur the following week, and a field that will be chock full of the nation’s best amateur players competing over four rounds. The top 32 progress to the matchplay and play for the Victorian Amateur title.
But he’s not there as a ceremonial player or to draw publicity for the event.
Goddard, who plays at Metropolitan in Melbourne, has an official +2 handicap, has played pennant for his club, and says he feels ready to take another small step in his development as a golfer aged 34.
"I know that my best is good enough," he told Golf Australia today. "At least to qualify."
Coached by Stuart Leong, Goddard has been a single figure player and golf tragic for years, all through his 334-game career and St Kilda and Essendon. Retirement at the end of 2018 has given him time to pursue his other love, with immediately results.
He has been a single figure handicapper for years (and an avid collector of Scotty Cameron putter covers, among other quirks). But he has been guided along the path by his close friends and professionals, Geoff Ogilvy and Marcus Fraser, for whom he caddied at a US Open.
He has a weekly game with Ogilvy and often plays with Fraser. At Peninsula Kingswood, where Ogilvy has joined since he returned from America to live in Melbourne, he’s played off plus four. He recalls one match against Ogilvy recently where the 2006 US Open champion had just had his membership papers cleared and his handicap made official.
"We printed out a card for him (Ogilvy) and went to the first tee, talked about what we were playing for, and he said: ‘This is good. You’ve got to give me two shots!’. You can imagine my response!"
More recently Ogilvy and Goddard played off the stick and Goddard has at least one victory notch in his belt. "Geoff (might have been) playing terribly. He’d hardly played in a month and a half. I’ll still take the victory, though, don’t worry."
Fraser, also ensconced back in Melbourne after 15 years in Europe, has to give him a couple of shots in their private games. Fraser, Ogilvy and Goddard are all playing together this weekend, as well, in the Australasian PGA Tour’s Gippsland Super Six at Yallourn.
There’s a method to Goddard’s theories. "I figured out a long time ago that the quickest way to get better is to play with people who are better than you,” he said. “It’s mainly their short game. You have days when you flush it and everything goes well, but even those guys can struggle day-to-day tee-to-green but what’s consistent is their short game.
"It allows them to shoot 70 or 71 when they hit it like they should have had 76. That’s a huge difference which I noticed years ago when I started playing with good players."
Football is off his radar, and not by accident. “It’s a conscious decision,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle choice to be honest. It’s about myself and the kids (Billie 3 and McKenzie 2) and my wife (Rosie). I had some discussions with people (in football) but I’m not that interested. I did a a coaching course, enjoyed it, but for me it’s about getting away and exhaling after 16 or 17 years. If I go down that path, I want to set myself up to be a senior coach. I want a long-term plan. I didn’t want to start the process because then I wouldn’t have anything other that footy. And I know what footy’s like."
Golf has filled the void, along with the family and the personal training business that he and his wife run, as well as some media work. Recently Goddard was involved in the commentary team at several Australasian PGA Tour events. At one point, he harboured a desire to turn professional; nowadays, he says, “I know my limitations”.
For Goddard, all this is about testing his limits. “I always wanted to play more competitive golf, but footy always got in the way. But now I enjoy it and I’ve got better now that I’ve got more time to play and practise. It’s about the competition. It scratches the itch.”
Click here for more information about the Port Phillip Open Amateur.