Sport

Blair Christie’s golf career on hold

By Andrew Johnston

EVERYTHING was falling into place for Blair Christie.

Already a local golfing prodigy, he had made the move to Melbourne to further his game.

He’d gone well past being a scratch player – he was +2, closing in on 3.

He’d made the approach to the PGA to start his traineeship to become a professional.

Playing pennant for Victoria Golf Club, everything was going his way.

Then, as it has for us all, coronavirus lockdown arrived.

In Melbourne, that meant no golf for an extended period.

“I bought a PlayStation and an Xbox,” he laughed.

“I had no clue what I was supposed to do with myself. I’d get out and go for a walk every day as that’s what I was able to do, but other than that I was lost.

“When something is that big of a part of your life, and then it’s taken away from you, it’s genuinely tough.”

Golfers across Melbourne were left without their favourite pastime, but Christie was left without so much more.

The thing he had worked harder on than anything, which he wanted to do for his career for as long as he could remember, was gone.

“The fact I was looking at starting my traineeship was the issue,” he said.

“If I had an injury and wasn’t able to get out on the course for a while, so be it, that’s something I am able to put up with.

“But when you’re trying to work towards something like this and your ability to play is taken away from you, that’s really tough.”

If you’re over the age of 18, or have finished Year 12, the process for becoming a gold professional isn’t that difficult.

First, you have to write to the PGA to get an application.

From there, you need some endorsements from others you have played with.

That was no issue – Rich River golf professional Richard Caiolfa, who has been working with Christie on his game for years, was more than happy to put pen to paper, as was Christie’s current coach.

Then came 12 months of handicap history – which may be where the rest of us are tripped up.

But when you’re playing off 3, this is no issue either.

But the process came to a grinding halt with COVID-19.

At the end of the first lockdown, he was able to briefly return to the course, but lockdown 2.0 quickly brought an end to that as well.

“I last went on a course in June,” he said.

“When playing golf is what you do, spending a few months away is horrible. I work in retail and that’s been held up due to being in Melbourne, so right now there is nothing. I’m not alone in this, but it’s a horrible position to be in.”

It’s just a putting mat for the 19-year-old.

It’s not much, but it’s something.

“I’m looking at buying a net too,” he said.

“I won’t be able to work on my control or where I’m actually putting balls, but I need to keep my swing active. That’s the one thing I know I have to keep working on while I can’t get out there.”

While COVID-19 case numbers across Victoria are rapidly going down, it’s not as simple as returning to his best after a layoff.

“These things take time,” he said.

“When you have a layoff, no matter how much work you are doing away from the course, you are going to struggle for a while. It takes time to get your target back, to make sure you are striking the ball well and playing your best golf.

“It will be a tough few months, it’s a long road for anyone to get back to their best, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

As for when he eventually returns, the game plan has not changed – he is focused on becoming a pro.

“That’s my ultimate focus,” he said.

“I’m ready to begin as soon as I can. It’s going to be tough, I know it will be a challenge, but I’m ready to put the work in and get there.”