Date: October 16, 2016
Author: Bernie Pramberg, The Courier Mail

Lonard looking forward to Qld Open

e is no doubting the best credentialed golfer at this week’s Isuzu Queensland Open.

He’s a knockabout bloke who drives a Commodore, loves Jimmy Barnes, a backyard barbecue and barracks for the Bulldogs in the NRL.

Peter Lonard has been playing the tour for more than 20 years and has won $20 million prizemoney.

His resume shows 10 tournament victories, including two Australian Opens, three Australian PGA Championships and two Australian Masters.

Lonard has also won on the US PGA Tour, taking the 2005 Heritage Classic at Hilton Head. As well, he has finished in the top-20 at the British Open, US Open and US PGA.

After more than a decade based in Orlando, Florida, Lonard sold his apartment last year, parted with his Ford Lincoln Truck and returned to his home town of Sydney.

“I’m back living in Sydney but went back to the States for about 18 weeks this year to play 14 events on the (secondary) Tour,’’ he said.

“I was on the road going from town to town during that time, just like I was in my 20s when I first went to America. It’s a lot harder now, not having anywhere permanent to go to on a Sunday night when a tournament finishes.’’

Like most seasoned tour professionals, Lonard, 48, is eyeing the lucrative US Senior Tour for which he is eligible in 2018.

“I’m still keen and enjoy playing tournament golf, but it can be difficult because of a recurring back injury,’’ he said.

“I used to be a bloke who would practise all day, but now I spend more time managing my back.

“It’s not an excuse … just the way it is these days. Hopefully, I can continue playing as much as I can to get ready for a crack at the seniors.’’

Lonard will have his first look at Brisbane Golf Club, venue for the Queensland Open, on Tuesday.

Although Queensland has been a happy hunting ground for Lonard who won his three Australian PGA titles at Coolum on the Sunshine Coast, he has rarely played in Brisbane.

“I’m looking forward to the week up there,’’ he said. “I hit the ball from tee to green pretty well at the Fiji International last week but didn’t putt well.

“I missed the cut by one shot which was a bit upsetting.’’

Putting as always been an issue for Lonard. Six of his tournament victories came using the long “broomstick” style while he won four tournaments with a traditional, short putter.

“I tossed and turned a bit when they introduced the rule banning the long putter,’’ he admitted. “But it’s the short putter for me now and that’s okay.

“I fiddle around using different ways to grip the putter but that’s all part of it.’’

Lonard’s career typifies the roller-coaster that is professional golf.
He was floored by a major health setback in 1992 when embarking on his playing career.

Lonard battled Ross Fever Fever (chronic fatigue syndrome) for two years as his weight soared to 120kgs and his eyesight was adversely affected.

After a slow recovery he took up a position as club professional at Oatlands Golf Club in western Sydney and played a few tournaments as a part-timer.

But in 1997 he created history by becoming the only club professional to top the Australasian PGA Tour money list. Highlight of the year was victory in the Australian Masters at Huntingdale over a quality field which included Tiger Woods.

Not surprisingly, Lonard quit the club job at Oatlands and committed to a career as a fulltime playing career.

In 2002 he was unlucky not to be named US PGA Tour Rookie-of-the-Year after making the cut in all 24 tournaments he contested and finishing third to superstars Woods and Ernie Els at Doral.

For the next five years Lonard notched consistently strong results in America and Australia until sustaining the back injury in 2008.

“It happened a week after I’d finished runner-up in New Orleans,’’ he recalled. “The injury was an on-going issue and I took the whole of 2010 off and had hip surgery to relieve pressure on my back.’’

Lonard subsequently worked with renowned coach David Leadbetter in Florida but in recent years has struggled to produce consistent results.

He has realistic expectations going into the Queensland Open which starts Thursday…

“I’m pretty happy the way I am hitting the ball, but will need to hole some putts to score well at Brisbane,’’ he said.

“Hopefully, I might surprise a few people.’’