Date: December 09, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Is Nathan Holman a flash in the pan?

Some might look at the $315,000 Nathan Holman pocketed as Australian PGA champion on Sunday and think he’s hit the jackpot.

Or that he’s a flash in the pan and came from nowhere.

Neither is remotely close to the truth.

In reality, the far bigger prizes came when he realised the exemptions he’d won courtesy of his playoff victory at Royal Pines.

A two-year exemption on the European Tour, a free pass to The Open Championship at Royal Troon as winner of the Australian PGA Tour’s order of merit title, an invite to to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational – a cut-free event with more than $12million in the prize pool – and others to WGC events in Florida and Malaysia next year.

It’s the stuff of dreams.

And plans.

Bar one brief step into the spotlight, Nathan Holman has been ever so quietly threatening to make this breakthrough since he turned professional in 2013 after being part of the Golf Australia national squad and programs of the Victorian Institute of Sport and Golf Victoria.

He rolled nicely out of the pro blocks, finishing 20th and third on the WA swing of the domestic tour before missing the cut at the first PGA Championship at Royal Pines.

And then came the moment that framed many golf fans’ views – positively or otherwise.

Then 22, Holman played in the final group with idol Adam Scott in the third round at Royal Melbourne as joint leader of the Australian Masters.

History will show he closed 70-78 after opening rounds of 68-65 and while some saw a key plank in Aussie golf’s future, others wrote him off as an impetuous youngster incapable of dealing with the weekend pressures.

Holman never let either thought worry him.

Here was a young man who, less than a year earlier, forgot to put in his entry to the Australian Amateur Championship at his home club Woodlands and was given no favours by Golf Australia staff who’d helped coach Marty Joyce mould him into arguably the favourite for the crown.

His response was swift – and emblematic.

Holman had help in arranging a start in the Victorian PGA Championship and promptly led after the first round at Creswick as an amateur.

Tellingly, he has missed just two cuts in Australia since turning pro – and only a handful in two years around European and Challenge Tour events.

He crushes the ball, has deft hands and a great capacity to string together birdies. But it’s that second nature of never giving in that sets Holman apart.

It’s his desire to walk the extra mile – even if it’s off Broadway – that has given Holman the base from which he can now launch the next phase of his career.

And it’s why he’s the poster boy of preparation and dedication that makes such a mockery of the notion he stumbled into his big win on Sunday.

“There hasn’t been a person go through our programs who has worked harder at his game than Nathan,” Golf Australia high performance director Brad James says.

“He’s like Minjee Lee in that he has, and continues to, avail himself of all the developmental resources that we have at our disposal.

“He could just as easily have thrown it away in the past couple of years thinking he hadn’t been rewarded for all his hard work. But that wouldn’t be Nathan.

“Some people work hard for days or weeks and think they’ve poured a lot into something. Nathan has been waiting for, no, more like working towards, this moment for as long as we’ve known him.

“Who knows where he’ll go from here? This could be the start of something really big, or it could be the pinnacle already, although I doubt it.

“But one thing for sure is that he won’t leave anything in the tank – he won’t slack off, he won’t think he’s achieved it all, he won’t for a second stop working hard at being better.”

Joyce, similarly, loves Holman’s dedication.

From the moment they began on the elite pathway together, they have inspired and taught each other – and continue to.

“You just watch him and he pushes and pushes. Not only himself, but us, as coaches, too. And those around him,” Joyce, also a GA national coach, beamed.

“He just won’t die wondering – ever.”

Joyce said he knew Holman’s mind was in a winning groove on Sunday at the par-five ninth of Royal Pines.

Where most players had been playing flop shots for their third and consequently unable to leave the ball in a scoring position, Holman elected to play a links-style bump shot to get his first of three critical birdies.

“We called that a `scrape’ shot after one of his trips playing amateur golf in the UK – and when he pulled that out and made the putt (from inside 3m), I knew he was in a good spot,” Joyce said.

“He was thinking clearly, but more importantly it showed that he has recalled all the lessons he has learned from all the experiences it has taken him to get to this point.

“As a coach, that was a great moment.

“To see someone think so clearly in such an important moment shows you what Nathan is all about – and you can’t say that about all golfers, no matter how good they are.”