Oliver Goss will return to one of his happy places when he steps onto the fairways of Royal Perth Golf Club for the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open this month.
Five years ago Goss became the first amateur in 21 years to win the century-old tournament, when he defeated close mate Brady Watt at the South Perth venue in a sudden-death play-off.
It was the kick-start to a glorious couple of years as it appeared the golfing world was ready to bow before him.
Goss staked his name to a wider audience when he reached the 2013 US Amateur final – ironically after defeating Watt in their semi-final – before underlining his quality by becoming the first Australian to win the Silver Cup as the low amateur at the 2014 US Masters.
“He’s a big-time performer,” Goss’ coach Ritchie Smith observed at the time. “I think that’s what we’re working out – that he plays well in these big time events when he’s challenged.”
In the five years since his WA Open success, however, Goss is still awaiting his next win on a professional tour
That is perhaps a symptom of how tough life is as a new professional – Smith’s words still ring true in the minds of all – as Goss has undergone the sort of growing pains almost every player must endure while also sharpening his perspective on how elusive success can be.
“Looking back on it, at the time I certainly didn’t realise how significant (winning the WA Open) really was,” Goss told GolfWA from the United States, where he is preparing for start of the First Stage of Web.com Tour Qualifying School next week.
“It really kick-started the end of my 2012 season, finishing third at the Asian Amateur the following week and a good finish at the Australian Masters the week after that.
“I can still remember every shot I hit from the 17th hole in the final round right through the play-off with Brady, so I know it’s meant a lot to me thus far.”
If the clarity of those memories portrays a young man determined to rediscover that winning feeling, Goss’ desire to be the best he can be remains undiminished.
Earning his way onto the PGA Tour remains the top priority and, despite admitting he has done it tough over the past 12 months, at the still tender age of 23 he has the bank of experience to work from that most other golfers his age would crave.
“It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived in America almost five years now between going to college (at the University of Tennessee) and turning professional, but I’m very comfortable living here, having an environment that I can call home,” he said.
“I know some players don’t like it here, but I see myself playing on the PGA Tour and in order to do so, you really need to live in the US.”
One of Goss’ more unlikely experiences this year was playing at the same Web.com Tour event as two-time NBA champion and Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry – who was given an invite to the Ellie Mae Classic.
“It was pretty cool, but we were on opposite sides of the draw so I never saw him once, not even on the range,” said Goss, who progressed to the weekend while Curry missed the cut despite impressing with a second-round 74.
“I would’ve loved to get a picture with him at some point but hopefully he will be asking me for a picture one day!”
Goss is smart enough to know there’s work to be done to achieve any such an ambition and an honesty to admit the setbacks must fuel his desire to reach golf’s top table.
“This year has been a new experience for me after having poor conditional status on the Web.com Tour,” he said.
“I’ve been forced to play up in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour which honestly didn’t go too well, thus going back to First stage of Web.com Qualifying school which starts next Tuesday.
“It’s clearly not an ideal situation to be in but it’s made me hungrier to get back out there and work towards my goals.”
Bringing that hunger to his home tournament, where he has enjoyed success, therefore appears like the sort of well-time coincidence that has the potential to be the starting point for a new plot line in his career.
The thought is not lost on Goss either who, while admitting he will welcome to chance to see his family “and the dogs” after being away from Perth since Christmas, will return with a clear agenda.
“I’m coming home with the mindset of winning, the fact that it’s at Royal Perth is just icing on the cake,” said Goss, who will play the Queensland Open the week after Royal Perth.
“A win would open up the door for me, with starts in the ‘Big Three’ Australian Tour events at the end of the year which yield opportunities to play in the British Open and even WGC events.
“Unfortunately I won’t have much time to recharge (in Perth) but I enjoy staying busy, whether it’s being at the golf course, in the gym, spending time with the friends and family or being at the beach.”
This year’s WA Open field is strong highlighted by World Super 6 Perth champion Brett Rumford, who will benefit from playing on his home course.
Dimitrios Papadatos, a two-time winner of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia this year, is back on the west coast after claiming the WA PGA Championship title in Kalgoorlie in June.
Goss knows he would have played extremely well if he is to beat such a strong field, and get his name on the Roy Paxton Bowl for a second time, and revealed that despite winning at Royal Perth previously he didn’t think the course particularly suited his game.
“Royal Perth isn’t a course that typically sets up well for me being a longer hitter,” he said.
“It’s a small property which results in some tight fairways but a lot of the tree lines are quite thin, so you can afford to spray it sometimes.
“Royal Perth is renowned for having some of the best greens in WA, even though they have little undulation – Mickey D can get them lighting fast which I’m looking forward to.”