Date: September 25, 2014
Author: Martin Blake

Herbert learns life on the road

s Herbert is in Japan again, at Sukuba, north-east of Tokyo as it happens, and he is hankering for home.

But first he has golf to play this weekend, for the outstanding young Australian amateur received an invitation to play this week in the Asia Pacific Open Championship, part of the Japanese and Asian Tours, in a field that includes YE Yang and Ryo Ishikawa, two of Asia's big names.

It's a big opportunity for the 18-year-old, but the call of home is strong after nearly a month on the road where he was runner-up in the individual section of the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy, the world amateur teams championship.

Travelling alone, he has learning quickly. Last week he posted an instragram picture of a piece of toast smothered in peanut butter, talking up its nutritional value, and although he has been in Japan for almost a month he has steered away from the sushi, for it is not his favorite. "I've had more curries than anything else,'' he told today. "I can trust the curries. And the toast (with peanut butter), that was a real treat.''

Travelling and playing without an entourage is a challenge in itself for a teenager. At the Eisenhower he was surrounded by Golf Australia's high performance staff; this time, he has to work  everything out for himself. But he has hooked on to a couple of other amateurs who are playing this week at Otone Country Club; there is a shuttle to the course every day.  "Twelve months ago I was hesitant about this stuff, but I'm comfortable now,'' he said. "It's a change, but I have to get used to life out on the road. There's just no way around it. It's not like I can buy houses in every country I play.''

He is also finishing year 12 at Bendigo Senior Secondary College, to complicate matters. "The school's been good. They've kept me up to date with my work, and I can see light at the end of that tunnel.''

Herbert's star is flying right now. A member of Golf Australia's elite amateur squad and a member at Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne, his game came together at Karuizawa Golf Club in Japan when he almost won the individual at the Eishenhower. Australia's team of Herbert, Geoff Drakeford and Ryan Ruffels finished a creditable sixth.  "It was a fun week,'' Herbert said. "I wasn't that worried about my own score to be perfectly honest. It was just in the back of my mind but mainly, we were a few shots behind as a team and it was about trying to make birdies and catch up. But it was nice to end up second, no doubt.''

Herbert feels his game coming around. "I'm playing well, hitting the ball well. This week the rough's quite thick, and there are a few holes that are challenging off the tee, and I can't see too many low scores out there. But with my game, I wouldn't want anything different.''

The Victorian picked up a start this week by finishing top-10 in the Asia Pacific Championship for amateurs last year, where he was third. He welcomes the challenge of taking on the pros. "This week is a test to see where my game's at. The Eisenhower course was easier, so this is a chance to put my game to a test against the best in the world and see how it compares. Hopefully I can get into a position where my name's on a leaderboard somewhere and then it's about seeing how I handle that situation.''

Herbert has a big summer ahead at home. He has a start in the Australian Masters at Metropolitan, and hopes to pick up a berth in the Emirates Australian Open at The Australian and the end of November. While he has played in professional tournaments before, these are big events and big moments for him. "Everything's going how I want it to go,'' he said. "I feel like I"m getting closer to where I want to be.''