Date: November 16, 2017
Author: Roy Fleming

Schoolkid seizes the moment at Open

The way the golf gods have smiled on Thomas Heaton this month, no-one should have been surprised when the Wollongong kid aced a hole within the first 20 minutes of his first pro tournament this morning.

But around a few minutes after 7 am on the opening day of one of the longest-running professional golf events in Australia, and playing in the lead group, Heaton did precisely that.

“I was teeing off second,” he said later, having shot a respectable one-under 71 in his professional debut playing in the same group as first-round leader Daniel Nisbet (-8).

“I had 126m to the hole. I thought I’d just hit a smooth nine (iron) in there. But I hit it a groove low, it was a bit thin, but with a little draw, about a 2m draw, one hop, a little bit of spin and straight in.
“It was great to see it go in as well, it being my first pro tournament and my second hole. I couldn’t be happier with the start.”

Every other day, Heaton is a typical 15-year-old teenager who attends Woonona High School in Wollongong’s northern suburbs. Lately, he hasn’t made it to many classes.

It was only last Monday he qualified for the NSW Open by winning a qualifying event at Liverpool Golf Club, in a brutal five-way playoff that only ended when Heaton sunk a bunker shot.

And the week before that he was busy winning the senior club championship at The Australian Golf Club, in the same year he won the Wollongong club championship. Aged 15, Heaton was by two years the youngest ever club champion at The Australian in its 135-year history.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2012 Heaton could easily have been lost to the English Premier League. So prodigious was his talent that three clubs, Manchester United, Alexandra Crewe and Fulham invited him to try out for the youth teams.

“I’ve played soccer ever since I was four. I was pretty good at soccer. It was hard to quit soccer a year ago because I loved it so much, playing with all my friends.

“But I found golf was more the sport for me. I was doing all the hard work, and now I can see it starting to pay off.”

To understand the pedigree of Heaton’s sporting prowess, you don’t have to look far. His father is Bill Heaton, a former Leeds and Huddersfield super league player in the 1990s.

So much talent, and still just a kid. Keep your eye out for him in tomorrow’s decisive round.