Date: February 26, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

New version of “old me” starts to pay

A joyous tweet said it all for Antonio Murdaca.

"Course record and T5th in the NZ PGA this week! So happy with my past two weeks! Thank you to everyone for the messages I received," Murdaca tweeted on Sunday night from New Zealand.

It's a far cry from the battles the South Australian has endured since the heady days of competing in the 2015 Masters after winning the 2014 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

The likeable 22-year-old has, by his own admission, struggled mightily in the interim, even to the point of having to return to Q-school earlier this summer when he finished sixth to gain some status on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.

But now, with a share of 10th at the Queensland PGA followed by a rampaging T5 finish in Palmerston North, there's more than enough cause for optimism.

Murdaca began last week with a 74, spotting eventual champion Ben Campbell, of New Zealand, a whopping 10 shots after round one.

A second-round 66 gave him weekend status, but the third-round 62 was not only good enough for the lowest score ever at Manawatu Golf Club (though not officially a course record because of preferred lies), it effectively gave proof to Murdaca that he was walking the right path to golfing redemption.

"There were some tough moments, for sure, but I always felt like I dug pretty deep and would be able to grind something out," Murdaca said.

"Obviousy it wasn't happening for a while there, but over last nine months or so, I've been grinding with my new coach, working hard together and just starting to find the `old me'."

That new coach is Troy Lane, at the Blackwood Golf Club in the Adelaide Hills.

That grind has been finding the radar he'd lost, particularly off the tee.

"I lost confidence in my long game and that (in turn) put pressure on my short game and when that wasn't up to scratch, I didn't have great scores," he said.

"But after working with Troy, I'm confident on the tee again … I can pull driver and I know roughly where it's going again. It makes a huge difference."

Murdaca said he began to feel signs of a renaissance in Darwin last year, but didn't get the chance to show his improvement when he had to withdraw during the second round of the New South Wales Open with back spasms and was sick during his raid on the Japanese Tour's qualifying school.

"I did a couple of silly things at the Vic Open, but it was pretty good at Toowoomba, then good again this week just gone, so hopefully, hopefully, something is not too far away.

"Really I've gone through a whole swing rebuild and I've been working really hard for 9-10 months on getting it right. I think maybe by later this year, if I can get somewhere to play, I could start contending again.

"I feel the best of me is yet to come."

Which is why he's so buoyed by the support on that path.

"I've had great support from close family and friends the whole time, following me over the past couple of years and starting to see something happening which is nice," he said.

"So having their support from day one is pretty special and hopefully they're encouraged by me getting some scores on the board again."

Victorians Deyen Lawson and Ash Hall were closest to running down Campbell, two shots adrift of the Kiwi, with in-form Tasmanian Simon Hawkes fourth and Murdaca sharing fifth with veteran Matt Millar.