Last year he took the cash, but next week Lucas Herbert wants the title when he tees-up at the Isuzu Queensland Open.
The 21-year-old professional, who thrilled galleries in 2016 with his fearless aggression, finished runner-up to fellow Victorian Brett Coletta after a spirited battle at The Brisbane Golf Club.
Coletta’s amateur status (he has since turned pro) meant Herbert pocketed the major prize-money but missed having his name engraved on the famous T.B Hunter Cup.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to Brisbane for the Open,’’ said Herbert. “When you’ve played well the previous year you obviously have good memories and return with confidence.
“The Brisbane layout sets up well for me and I’m confident of a good tournament to set me up for the summer.’’
Herbert is playing the Macau Open on a sponsor’s invitation this week after failing to advance from the first stage of US PGA qualifying school two weeks ago.
“The year hasn’t gone quite as well as I would have wanted but I’m reasonably pleased with my game. I have the right people around me and, provided I work hard, there is no reason I can’t keep improving week to week,’’ he said.
Herbert, a crowd favourite with an engaging personality, carded rounds of 68-68-71-69 around Brisbane last year to finish three strokes adrift of Coletta.
He subsequently notched top-10 finishes in the NSW Open, Victorian Open and ISPS HANDA World Super 6 in Perth.
“The Queensland and New South Wales Opens give us a good lead into the Australian Open and PGA,’’ said Herbert.
“This year’s Australian Open is at The Australian in Sydney and that is another course that sets up well for me. I played there as an amateur and it is fairly long which also suits me.’’
Ashley Hall, who was joint runner-up in the 2016 Australian Open, has been a late withdrawal from the Isuzu Queensland Open after gaining a start in the lucrative WGC-HBSC tournament in Shanghai.
But Hall said events such as the Isuzu Queensland Open were vital for the development of top quality players.
“People often do not realise the importance of these events,’’ he said. “You learn how to compete and how to win.
“I’m a reluctant non-starter at Brisbane, but the opportunity to play in a tournament which is not too far removed from a major is what we all aim for.’’
Hall, 33, who also performed well in the 2016 Australian PGA at Royal Pines to finish fourth, said he rated the state Opens and PGAs highly.
“Although I had those good finishes last year I still regard my wins in the Victorian Open and Victorian PGA as better,’’ he said.
“It’s good for you mentally to know you can compete with the better players.’’
Ironically, Hall missed the cut in four successive events last year (including the Isuzu Queensland Open) before an outstanding showing at the Australian Open.
Queenslander Jake McLeod, who narrowly missed a top-10 finish at the Fiji International, aims to capitalise on experience gained at Brisbane last year when he missed the cut.
“I learnt a few things last year. I’ll change the way I approach my tee shots on a few holes … it’s the kind of course that gives who options,’’ he said.
“My game has been pretty solid in recent events. I’m playing smarter and enjoying my golf.’’
McLeod, who is working with Brisbane Golf Club-based teaching professional Lee Eagleton, will depart for Spain on the Sunday night of the Open to contest the second stage of European Tour qualifying school.
McLeod finished fourth at the 2015 Isuzu Queensland Open at Brookwater as an amateur.
The Isuzu Queensland Open will be played from 26-29 October 2017 at The Brisbane Golf Club. The Championship is a part of an action-packed Australian summer of golf and forms part of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia. For more information visit www.qldopen.com.au.