Date: December 18, 2012
Author: Luke Elvy / Golf Australia

Luke Elvy blog: Big Poppa a breath of fresh air

It sunk in immediately. Standing there at the presentation with the trophy, I knew what I had achieved – Newly crowned Australian PGA champion Daniel Popovic. Isn t breakout winner Daniel Popovic, a breath of fresh air? In a world of automated responses, the 26 year-old Victorian was open, honest and engaging all week. It’s just who he is and he continued to entertain us when he celebrated the win last night in the Coolum Village. We all stood captivated as he talked us through some of the highlights of his astonishing victory, which had taken place just a few hours earlier. His face beaming as he told us about getting a text message then a follow up phone call from Greg Norman, regaling the praise the icon of Australian golf had bestowed upon him. The Shark, no way! That is so cool, said one of his mates who had flown up earlier in the day to watch his final round. It was just one of the 350+ text messages, phone calls and emails head received in the aftermath of his show stopping win at Coolum. I first met Daniel earlier in the week just after head just played a practice round with Geoff Ogilvy and his good mate Ryan Lynch. He smiled and said G day Elvis like we d known each other for years. At the time, I honestly had no idea who he was and nor did I think I was meeting the next winner of the Joe Kirkwood Cup! A virtual unknown to anyone outside of his family and friends until this week, Popovic is exactly what Australian golf needs, a bright new star. There are a so many great stories like his just waiting to be told, it just takes something special to get the attention these days. I was scrambling on-air late on Day 1 as the name Daniel Popovic appeared on the first page of the leader board. I knew very little of him and only had results of his rookie season to go with. Medallist at 2012 Q-school, 8th in the Victorian Open and 6th at the NSW PGA were his best results to date. He d won a little over $13,000 dollars in prize money from his first year on tour. I even tweeted, asking any of my followers if they knew more about him. Former club champion and no.1 pennant player at Kew Golf Club. Plays out of the Heritage. He’s a great bloke. were some of the responses. It wasn t much but it got us through until I bumped into him after his round. Yeah, my dad s not well, it s incurable was his response to my question to how sick his father was. Popovic had revealed to on-course commentator Mark Howard that head missed a fair bit of his year to support his father, Radi. Radi was apparently given six months to live when he was diagnosed with bone cancer in the middle of the year but it has since been revealed he can live with the disease. It’s an all too common story these days but no less shocking. Any question after hearing that was irrelevant but I needed to know more. I ve been playing pretty well of late, just not making any putts but I ve got a new putter this week, it s an Odyssey no.7! If it was an Odyssey no.5 you could call it Powderfinger. I joked referring to the famous Australian rock band s hit album. He laughed, before adding, it certainly works. He holed them from everywhere all week it was the key to his victory but Popovic wasn t shy to reveal the real secret to his success. Spaghetti with vegetables and vanilla ice-cream. He had it every night for dinner after he shot an opening 8-under 64. Golfers are strange like that; they can be creatures of habit or in this case superstitious. If something works they believe it s the magic formula. It’s just one of their quirks. Heading into the final round, many hoped but few believed Popovic could pull off the win. And when Rod Pampling seized the lead heading into the back nine when Daniel doubled the 8th, we thought it was over. But as he’s shown with the way he’s handled his father s battle with cancer, this guy has a big heart and pulled off a remarkable victory. To go from one behind to a four-shot winner over the closing three holes of a tournament of the PGA s stature, with just $3,000 in his bank account, proves Popovic is a born winner. This summer of golf didn t have the star power of last year but the stories were just as good. Adam Scott played impeccable golf at a stunningly presented Kingston Heath to beat Ian Poulter at the Masters and 53 year-old Peter Senior defied history to claim his second Open. However, a guy ranked 1251st in the world upstaging many of our best players including a couple of major champions, going wire to wire no less, is the pick of them all. While it will rightly open doors for him, it also provides hope to the many young Aussie professionals who will now believe that what we witnessed at Coolum this past week can also happen to them and that might be the lasting legacy of this bolt from the blue victory. As far as I m concerned long live Poppa the Show Stopper! Luke Elvy hosted Ten Sport&aposs coverage of the Australian PGA Championship coverage in December. He writes exclusively for Golf Australia. His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. Follow him on Twitter – @elvisgolf