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An Unforgettable Week At The 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open

I was fortunate enough to play in the event as a 28-year-old back in 2005 when it was held at Ipswich Golf Club.  I navigated my way through a pre-qualifying round at Redland Bay and thanks to 3 back nine birdies, I shot a round of 70 (2 under par) to make it through by 2 shots.

I shot 79-75-154 for the tournament itself (without a single birdie) and while it would have been nice to play better, it was still great to say that I’d played in a professional golf event.  The low amateur that year was Jason Day and I was one of just 24 amateurs in the field.

I’ll be honest and say that as a 41-year-old who doesn’t practice and plays only on weekends, I didn’t expect to ever play another professional tournament.  That said, I decided to enter this year’s Isuzu Queensland Open at last minute (3:30pm on 11 October 2018) after a friend said he was doing the same in a Facebook chat.

I haven’t been playing particularly well but was excited to be paired with 16-year-old West Australian Josh Greer for the pre-qualifying round at Nudgee Golf Club on Monday, 29 October 2018.  I saw him defeat Min Woo Lee at the 2018 Australian Men’s Amateur back in January and make his debut for Western Australia at the Australian Men’s Interstate Series in May.  He was a great kid and I’d love to see him get better and better over the coming years.

For me, the day started as expected with a bogey on the 10th hole.  I missed the green, hit a bad chip and hit an even worse putt.  I don’t know how… but suddenly everything turned around.  I holed a 30-foot birdie putt across the green on the 12th and then holed two lengthy par putts on the 18th and 2nd holes.  Neither par putt deserved to go in (I pulled them both) but the breaks were going my way.

After holing a 20-foot birdie putt from off the green on the 7th, I was able to make a nervy 5-foot par putt on the 8th and an even nervier 2-foot putt for par on the 9th (my hands were shaking) to finish with an even par score of 71.  There were 91 people in the field (a mix of professionals and amateurs) with the top 15 players advancing into the tournament.  Would my score be good enough?

The answer was “yes” but with an asterisk.  13 players had shot 70 or better and 5 players were sitting on 71.  That meant I was in a 5-man play-off with only the top 2 going through.

On the first play-off hole (the 10th), I drove in the trees and had almost no shot to the green.  If it was a normal round, I would have chipped it sideways back into the fairway and played for a safe bogey.  Given the stakes and the fact that bogey would have most likely meant elimination, I went for the high risk shot through a tiny gap in the trees and managed to get the ball in the front bunker.

It was a great/lucky result but I still faced a lengthy 30m bunker shot out of thick, wet sand.  I splashed it out to 20-feet with a 46-degree wedge.  I have no idea where I found the confidence from (I’d been a nervous wreck 30 minutes earlier) but I somehow made the putt to stay alive.  It would have to be one of the most clutch shots that I’ve ever hit under intense pressure.

On the next play-off hole (the 18th), I was able to split the fairway with my drive (gasp), hit the green and two-putt for par.  When the two remaining players both made bogey, I had secured a spot in the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open!

Someone on Twitter asked what the best part of the whole experience had been and it was an easy question to answer.  I was touched by the number of friends and fellow golfers who sent me messages of congratulations on social media and/or came up to me in person to shake my hand out at Brisbane Golf Club.  It was a thrill to know that so many people were happy for me.

The rest of the week seemed to fly by in a flash.  I played the Tuesday pro-am with New South Wales professional Troy Moses and 4-time AFL premiership player Luke Hodge.  I teed it up again in the Wednesday pro-am with comedian Fred Lang and Titleist representative Matt Dowling.  Another nice touch of being a player was getting 24 golf balls and a new cap from Titleist!

The tournament began on Thursday and I had a 12:15pm tee time with two professionals – Braden Becker from Western Australian and Sam Lee from Fiji.  Becky Kay was paired two groups ahead and she had some big crowds out following given she was the first woman to ever qualify for the Isuzu Queensland Open.

I’d like to say it was a Cinderella-like story where my great form continued during the tournament… but that wasn’t the case.  I’ll admit to being very nervous!  I parred the opening 2 holes but then had a run of bogies to finish with a score of 81 (10 over par).  At least I had a birdie though!  That was something I was unable to achieve when playing at Ipswich 13 years earlier.

Things went a little better for my Friday morning round but a few late bogies left me with a score of 78 (7 over par) and I missed the cut by a sizeable 14 shots.  Of the 132 players in the field (94 professionals and 38 amateurs), I finished 127th.

It’s not a great result but it’s hard to be disappointed.  I got to compete against some of the best professionals and amateurs from the country in a PGA Tour of Australasia event.  I remember standing on the 18th green on Friday and trying to soak it all in for a final few seconds before the round came to an end.  It was also fun to have two great friends caddy for the week – Zac Sheehan on Thursday and Brady Duncan on Friday.

Congratulations to New South Welshman Jordan Zunic who won the event with a clutch par putt from about 10 feet on the final hole.  He’s a top guy and I had the pleasure of playing a practice round with Jordan before the 2009 Australian Men’s Amateur Championship at Virginia.  Blake Windred took the honours for low amateur and given my role on the Board of Golf Queensland, I thought it was cool that the worst amateur got to present the prize to the best amateur!

It’s now back to normality.  I’ve got a full week of work and plenty of films to catch up on.  I’ve got a hunch this will be my last crack at a professional golf event but as I’ve learned over the past 7 days, anything is possible!

You can check out some highlights from the week (featuring my commentary) on the Golf Queensland YouTube page using the links below.  If you look carefully, you’ll spot my shabby looking swing in the videos for round 1 and 2.  Enjoy!

Round 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N6gOKnCIZA

Round 2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxs4--3m6H8&t=28s

Round 3 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnIPnsHNJf4

Round 4 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACgqL43baq8

 

2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
With West Australian Josh Greer, my playing partner during the pre-qualifying round at Nudgee.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
How good is free stuff? An unexpected perk of qualifying for the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
Not a bad pro-am group! 2014 Keperra Bowl champion Troy Moses, 4-time AFL winning premiership player Luke Hodge, super caddy Brady Duncan, and local hack Matt Toomey.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
In action during the Tuesday pro-am.  That's my normal look of concern after most tee shots.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
On the 5th hole during Thursday's opening round of the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open. Flubbed this chip about 40 feet short. :)

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
A rare good drive off the 6th tee during the opening round of the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
Super caddy Brady Duncan ready to roll on the 1st tee of the second round.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
Presenting the low amateur prize (in my official Golf Queensland capacity) to New South Welshman Blake Windred.

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
Getting a snap with the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open champion, Jordan Zunic!

 

 
2018 Isuzu Queensland Open
A new shelf in my trophy cabinet with a few memories from an unforgettable week at the 2018 Isuzu Queensland Open.

 

 

Interview - Face-to-Face With Rami Malek & Talking 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

Rami Malek Interview

I get the chance to speak with actors and filmmakers but it usually takes place over the phone as there often isn’t time for talent to come up to Brisbane when visiting Australia. 

He’s touted as a possible Oscar nominee and so I couldn’t give up the chance to speak face-to-face with star Rami Malek when he was in Sydney to promote Bohemian Rhapsody.

Here’s how it went down - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkrTO3Vyboo.

Interview - Director John Curran Takes Us To 'Chappaquddick'

John Curran Interview

I recently had the chance to speak with director John Curran about his latest film, Chappaquiddick.  Here’s what he had to say…

Matt:  I look at American politics at the moment and it feels as partisan and divisive as it’s been for a long time.  Is that a risk in making a political film like this?  Is there a worry that people are going to attack it from both sides?

John:  It’s about a politician but it’s not really a political movie.  We went into this with eyes wide open.  We knew it was going to be controversial and particularly in this climate, we knew the right side would look at it through their own prism and that the left would be seeing a whole different film and having a different reaction to it.  I think the divisiveness will create conversation which is good for any film.   

Matt:  What was the source material here?

John:  The main plot points can be Googled.  There are no secrets there.  There was a degree of cover-up and an irresponsible delay in reporting the accident.  In terms of the specifics, we drew from the inquest where the people involved had provided hours of testimony.  There were also a couple of books that provided a comprehensive overview of the accident and the aftermath.  We drew from the facts as much as possible and then created conversations around that.  We weren’t trying to lean left or right or create a salacious piece or something apologetic.  We wanted to go down the middle and tell the facts according to Ted.

Matt:  The film doesn’t make a definitive statement in a few areas – like how Ted got out of the car, how much alcohol he had consumed and the cause of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death.  I’m guessing that’s a conscious decision on the part of you and the writers?

John:  Oh yeah.  It’s a film about an evolving narrative that still has gaps in it today.  The idea was to leave it to the viewer to form their own opinions by the end.  There’s no “good” telling of this story.  Ted was highly irresponsible and neglectful in the aftermath of the accident.  We didn’t feel the film should embellish it in a way where we try to take claim for certain truths that we couldn’t back up with evidence.

Matt:  In today’s age of 24 hour news and social media, do you think Ted Kennedy could have controlled this story as easily if this had all taken place today?

John:  I don’t think they could.  I think it’s very likely that Ted Kennedy wouldn’t have had a second act and would not have been re-elected.  Then again, look at what’s going on with the current President.  There is a scandal every single day that would sink any other President.  What he’s revealed is that regardless of who is President, half of the country is going to support him no matter what so maybe I’m wrong.  If this happened today, half of the country would still support Teddy Kennedy.

Matt:  It feels like such a fine line.  There are politicians today who have fallen on their sword for what I would argue are much lesser discretions but Kennedy was able to find a way to dodge this scandal.  Was he just lucky with stuff like the timing of the Apollo 11 landing or were he and his team smarter than most?

John:  I think the press had more of a “hands off” approach to politicians and celebrities back then.  It was end of the 60s and the end of an incredible decade where the Kennedys had dominated American life and were like a Royal Family.  More importantly, it had only been a year since the tragedy of Bobby and I think that garnered a lot of sympathy for him.  This accident helped put an end to the myth of Camelot.  After that, the Kennedys were perceived with more honest eyes.

Matt:  An Aussie (Jason Clarke) playing Ted Kennedy.  I have to ask how that came about?

John:  I lived in Australia for a long time.  Like 16 or 17 years.  Jason and I have known each other since my very first film, Praise.  It’s a book that’s set in Brisbane actually.  Jason is in that film for about 8 seconds and I’ve remained in contact with him.  He was attached to the script and through his manager, it came to me.  Whatever concerns I had about how the content of this film would be perceived, I had total faith that Jason could pull it off.  He has this similar look to Ted and he had the acting chops to do it.

Matt:  Did you know a lot about this story before coming on board?  I have to admit that here in Australia, I knew very little about it.  I wonder if that’s the case in America as well.

John:  I did because by chance.  This happened in 1969 when I was 9 years old and I was living in the town in New Jersey next to where the Kopechene’s lived.  I heard a lot about it in school because there were stories going around.  I thought I knew about it but it wasn’t until I picked up the script that I realised there were a lot of things I didn’t know which were amazing like the fact it happened the same week as the moon landing.

Matt:  How did you create the setting?  We see the bridge where the accident occurred which looks very similar to photos from the time but that said, I believe the current bridge now has guard rails in place.

John:  We rebuilt the bridge to the original specifications in a big water tank in Mexico where they filmed Titanic.

Matt:  The real-life interviews with members of the public at the end of the film are a nice touch.  How did you come across those and identify which ones you wanted to include in the film?

John:  That was by accident and it happened very late in the edit.  There was something not right about the ending and we had a researcher pulling together old archival clips from the news.  I didn’t come across those until late.  They’re both funny and tragic.  The day after Ted Kennedy’s speech, this reporter went out on the streets of Boston and was interviewing people to get their varied opinions.  All he was getting was people who supported Ted no matter what.  The reporter was getting increasingly frustrated because he couldn’t find anyone who was saying something negative.  There were only 2-3 people who said something negative and they’re in the film but that’s just to show there were some descending voices but for the most part, the people of Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly to re-elect him a few more times.

Matt:  What are you working on at the moment?  What will we see from you next?

John:  I’m attached to a couple of things but I don’t know what will be next to be honest.  I’m still in that phase of trying to decide. 

Interview - Simon Baker, Samson Coulter & Ben Spence On 'Breath'

Simon Baker Interview

Breath marks the feature film directorial debut for Australian actor Simon Baker.  He was recently on the Gold Coast for the film’s Australian premiere and I had the chance to talk to him, and stars Samson Coulter and Ben Spence, about the project…

Matt:  Most people know you as Simon Baker the actor as opposed to Simon Baker the director.  We don’t make a lot of movies in this country and so how did you become involved with this project in this capacity?

Simon:  It was sent to me by an American producing mate who I’d worked with before, Mark Johnson.  He said he’d thought of me and asked me to read the book with the thought of partnering up and producing this together.  The book blew my mind and took me back to a lot of earlier stuff in my life.  I called him back and said “sign me up.”  We then went through the process of trying to find at a director and it was at one of those meetings where Mark leant across and asked whether it had occurred to me to direct this thing.  He thought I should and I said “great, I was just waiting for you to ask.”

Matt:  There’s a question I’ve always wanted to ask someone in your position – how do you direct yourself?

Simon:  You just do it.  Sometimes you do it bad and sometimes you do it a bit better.  It’s tougher during certain scenes.  I wish I loved acting as much as directing.  It’s still okay but I feel more “alive” when behind the camera.

Matt:  Many will have read the book by Tim Winton.  How involved was he during the shoot?

Simon:  He came and visited just before we started shooting to look at some of the locations and stuff.  He was incredibly supportive with me.  We had a couple of dinners early on and I talked about what I wanted to do in terms of my approach.  I asked for his blessing and he told me to go for it.

Matt:  Samson and Ben, how old are you guys now and how old were you when you shot the film?

Samson:  I’m 18 now but I was 16 when I shot the film.

Ben:  I’m 17 now and was just shy of 16 when we shot it.

Matt:  What was the audition process like?  Did you have a strategy going in?  Anyone giving you tips?

Samson:  I don’t know what a normal audition process is like but this did feel different given they were looking for someone who could both surf and act.  My parents saw a notice on social media and said something at dinner which I dismissed at first.  I then had a teacher at my school who had done a bit of acting who said I should throw my hat in the ring for a bit of fun.  So I did and got an audition and they called me back a few times and then Simon got involved for a workshop with a few other boys.

Ben:  Surfing Australia were sending out details of the auditions to boardriders clubs.  I was in the Margaret River Boardriders Club.  My mum saw it and she sent through a photo without really consulting me.  Nikki Barrett, the casting director, then sent through an email asking me if I wanted to audition but we never got the email.  Six months later, she was came down to Margaret River and I had the chance to audition and that’s when I got the call up to go to a workshop in Sydney.  

Matt:  Now be honest – how good are you guys at surfing?  Do you guys do it just for fun?  Are you at an elite competitive level?  How do you stack up?

Samson:  We both compete.  It’s been a big thing for most of life.  I think I started competing when I was about 9 years old.  I don’t know how that led into acting but it did.

Matt:  What happens now?  Do you have dreams of becoming an actor or a professional surfer?

Samson:  That’s a good question.  My goal has always been to surf but the experience of making Breath has opened my mind to something else.

Simon:  Why can’t you do both?  You can’t surf competitively as a career forever.

Samson:  Yeah.  I can’t see why I can’t give them both a good nudge.

Matt:  Simon, it is tough finding convincing young actors for any movie so how did you settle on these guys?  What were the factors that got Samson and Ben over the line?

Simon:  I watched hundreds of auditions.  You look and you hope.  I didn’t want a drama school polished kind of actor.  I wanted the authenticity of real kids who could also surf and handle themselves on the water.  I also wanted to find kids that were “boy men” – they had boyish look to them but you can see them on the cusp of manhood.  We shot this film over 6 weeks and it was very important for me to capture them feeling like boys in the beginning but men in the end.  You need kids with an emotional maturity and a confidence in themselves to take on the task of acting.  The acting was more terrifying to them than the surfing stuff.

Matt:  There are some strong, moving scenes in the film so how did you guys find the acting side of the role?  How did it stack up against your expectations?

Ben:  Two weeks beforehand, we did some practice with an acting coach.  We got a lot more comfortable with acting and got to know more about each other and Simon.  That helped when we got on set.

Matt:  How did you pull those surfing scenes together?  Did they involve a lot of takes?  You’re at the mercy of the seas so how easy was it getting the right angles?

Simon:  Yeah, really tough.  We had a water crew for 4 weeks which is all we could afford.  When we didn’t have the right conditions, they would go out and shoot stuff with stunt doubles just in case – like underwater paddling shots and waves breaking.  When we got the right conditions, we’d drop everything else on land and shoot the stuff on the water.  It was like a shadow hanging over us as we were looking at weather forecasts each day.  We got lucky enough to have just enough good days to get the footage and have a story that fit with it.

Matt:  I don’t want to give too much away but the film goes down some interesting paths in the second half that may not sit well with everyone in the audience.  Their views of the characters may change.  Obviously that’s part of the source material but as a director, how much thought goes into those scenes as in choosing what to show and how much to show?

Simon:  My style as a director is more about withholding.  I don’t want to show a lot.  I want to suggest things so that the audience is engaged with their own imagination.  I want them to put things together so that they share in the experience.  Also, the style arc of the film is a boy crossing that line into adulthood and things becoming real.  The film’s visual style matures over the course of the film.  There’s a sweet naivety to it at the start but by the end of the film, it’s much more intense.

Matt:  You guys had the chance to take this film to the Toronto Film Festival which is a huge honour.  I’ve been there myself and it is absolutely nuts in terms of the people and the atmosphere.  What was that experience like?

Samson:  Mad!  We were looking at each other going “what are we doing here?”  We were blown away by the whole experience.  There were actors running around everywhere and we were sneaking into parties.  That was also the first time that I’d seen it before with a big audience.  There’s a different feel to that.

Matt:  What was it like watching it with your friends and family for the first time?

Ben:  My mum cried which was a bit whack.

Samson:  I was a bit nervous.  My mum is a very emotional person.  She cries during advertisements for old people’s homes on TV.  I was a bit worried that she would be uncomfortable about some of the themes but she took it well.

Matt:  Simon, what are your plans going forward?  I assume we’ll see more of you in front of the camera but any plans to direct again?

Simon:  I did a movie with Sarah Jessica Parker in New York for a few days after I finished this movie.  It’s a little arty movie and I’m not sure if it’ll make it here to Australia.  I maybe acting in a film later in the year but I’m not sure at this stage.