June 19, 2022
After four missed cuts at the Beautiful Thailand Swing, the Aussie has broken through in Indonesia
By Kent Gray
Aussie rookie Harrison Gilbert has hailed the MENA Tour’s role in his “surreal” professional breakthrough on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
The 23-year-old Victorian captured the US$70,000 Indo Masters Golf Invitational on Saturday in just his sixth start on the Asian Tour’s feeder circuit.
Gilbert opened with a one-over 73 but quickly came to grips with tricky Imperial Klub Golf on the outskirts of Jakarta in compiling rounds of 64, 67, 66 to eventually edge Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan by a stroke.
The victory caps what has been an eye-opening start to Gilbert’s professional career. The pandemic initially stalled his plans to cut the amateur umbilical cord but a chance meeting with MENA Tour commissioner David Spencer in Melbourne in March convinced Gilbert to turn professional before the Beautiful Thailand Swing (BTS) in May.
He missed all four cuts at the series of four events in Phuket co-sanctioned by the ADT, the first three by an agonising stroke each time, but emerged battle-scarred in an invigorating kind of way. His best decision in Phuket was to take up affiliate membership to the ADT which led to a late call-up to the circuit’s latest two-tournament stretch in Indonesia.
Gilbert didn’t need a second invitation, cashing his first pro cheque – all $912.33 of it (minus tax) - with an encouraging T15 finish at the OB Golf Invitational at Dami Indah Golf last week. Now he has a full ADT card for the remainder of 2022 courtesy of his $12,250 win at Imperial Klub and is up to sixth on the secondary tour’s Order of Merit with $13,162.
The top seven players at season’s end earn full Asian Tour cards for 2023 which has been Gilbert’s goal all along. But before looking ahead to perhaps joining pals Travis Smyth and Will Heffernan on the Asian Tour, Gilbert doesn’t want to forget where he came from.
“I wouldn’t be here today with this win if I didn’t have the MENA Tour card,” Gilbert said.
“The MENA Tour is all about giving young guys a chance to play and get to the next level and I hope I can be an exemplary example in that regard. We’re young, we’re here and we’re ready to go.”
That’s mission accomplished already for Gilbert who admitted his experience in Thailand helped him learn the importance of "staying in the moment” and not thinking too far ahead to cuts made or cards earned.
“Missing the four cuts was a tough pill to swallow but I wouldn’t say it was a brutal introduction to pro golf. It was just welcome to the world of golf. It sort of changed my mindset for Jakarta where I went in with no expectations and I think that held me in good stead,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert’s next assignment is the brutal PGA Tour of Australasia Q-School starting at Moonah Links on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula on June 29. He’d love to compete in a full summer of Aussie golf and made it to the second stage last year. The pressure is off a little more now he has full status on the ADT.
“The win gets me to sixth in The ADT OOM and the top seven get cards to the Asian Tour where I have friends [Smyth and Heffernan] who I actually see as role models. The Asian Tour is held in high regard in Australia and it’s where I want to be, it’s always been the pathway I’ve wanted to follow.
“I’m still soaking up this win but that’s the long-term vision. I’m just trying to stay patient, focus on one day at a time, one round, even one shot at a time because it is really easy in golf to get overwhelmed. I’ll just keep my head down and try to play some good golf.”
Gilbert said his family back in Melbourne “were just about as speechless as I was” after he clinched victory on Saturday. His girlfriend, in isolation with COVID-19, burst into tears after a stressful day of internet leaderboard watching while “Mum and Dad are obviously over the moon. They didn’t think I quite had it in me but I’ve earned my stripes now and it’s really only the beginning of the journey.”
"I’m still trying to come to terms with it to be fair, it’s a bit surreal. It’s not that I ever doubted myself but I didn’t think it would come this quickly. I’m rapt.”
Image courtesy Asian Development Tour/OB Sports