Date: November 14, 2016
Author: Martin Blake

Great memories for Open champion Allan

Steve Allan is a devotee of social media and it was just a few weeks ago that he saw a video that brought a smile to his face. Golf Australia had posted some old footage of the 2002 Australian Open on its Facebook and Twitter sites, with a baby-faced Allan taking the prize.

"It's hard to believe it's 14 years ago,'' Allan said today at Royal Sydney, where he will compete in the Emirates Australian Open again. "It's crazy.''

Allan is 43 and coming up to 20 years on the circuit. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Bridget and three young sons Liam, Joey and Zac, carving out a living from the cruellest of games. But he has never come close to repeating the heroics that he produced those days at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne.

It was an infamous Open for other reasons. On the first day, with the greens cut and rolled to breaking point, the tournament imploded. Putts horse-shoed around the hole and ran back to players' feet; gradually the word pass around the course that it was unplayable. The first round had to be abandoned in fairness to those who had completed their rounds, even though the weather conditions were perfect.

The Australian Golf Union's chief executive Colin Phillips apologised for a situation that embarrassed Australian golf, and the tournament was reduced to 54 holes, a travesty for the national championship. In ''tricking up'' the shortish Victoria to protect it against marauding professionals, the people who set up the course had gone too far.

Meanwhile Stephen Allan was on the third hole of his first round on "the fastest greens I've ever putted on''. He and fellow-Melburnian Geoff Ogilvy had practised at Victoria a week earlier and seen it coming. "They were already on the point of 'hey, this is crazy','' he said. "On the day I'd  played two and a half holes and you could tell straight away (that it was a problem).''

With the first round cancelled, Allan went on to post 66-64-68 on the final three days to win by a shot. He was just 29, a handsome ball-striker and apparently with the golf world at his feet. His manager at the time, Paul Galli, booked a room at a Brighton hotel where friends and family celebrated long into the night his joining the likes of Nicklaus, Player and Norman on the Stonehaven Cup.

"It's the highlight of my career,'' he said today. "It's always good to come back. We always gets a really good field and it's always on a good golf course.''

To this day, his only other win as a professional was the 1998 German Open. Allan found his way on to the US PGA Tour and had two second-place finishes, but eventually lost his status, dropping back to the secondary Tour where he has spent the past few years.

In 2016 his performances dipped so badly that his earnings of $56,930 were not even sufficient to cover travel expenses. In three weeks' time, he will be back at the Tour finals and trying to find a job for himself again in 2017.

Such is the life of the middle-ranking pro, who survives on a sliver of optimism and the fact that the top 25 players on the secondary tour each year get a ticket to the big dance. "The game feels okay,'' he said. "I definitely would have lost a little bit of money this year, but I still want to do it. I feel like I'm not that far away from it. I'd love to win a few more tournaments and get back out on the PGA Tour, and the way to do it is 'the web', obviously. Twelve months ago I was close to getting it done. I was just outside the 25 in the season and the playoffs, so it was promising and then disappointing to have the year I've had.''