TIM LEONARD

Turn­ing pro­fes­sional and trav­el­ling the world play­ing golf is a dream to many of us. The money, the life­style, the star­dom, the money again, how good would it be? In ac­tual fact only the tini­est frac­tion of play­ers make a ca­reer out of play­ing and the dri

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY MATT RICHENS

Once promis­ing am­a­teur from Ti­maru has turned his back on play­ing golf, now a caddy at St An­drews.

In New Zealand, Leonard could en­joy him­self and still be one of the best in the coun­try, but now he was in the big leagues. “You re­alise how hard it is and how hard it is to be good, or to be right at the top, once you get out of New Zealand.”

Tim Leonard grew up in Ti­maru. From a young age he was good at golf. That's not fair re­ally, he was bet­ter than good, he was a nat­u­ral.

He worked very hard, pushed him­self and was soon known as “the golfer”.

The fu­ture looked bright as the ti­tles piled up. He rep­re­sented Ao­rangi at sev­eral in­ter­provin­cials and han­dled him­self well. But was he just a good golfer by South Can­ter­bury's stan­dards? The short an­swer is no; he was soon se­lected to rep­re­sent New Zealand at ju­nior level.

He made the most of his early hard work, tal­ent and suc­cess and got him­self more ti­tles and even­tu­ally a full schol­ar­ship at South­ern Utah Univer­sity who play in the United States' top golf divi­sion. He played along­side hun­dreds of great play­ers, one of whom was world No 8 John Rahm, the world's top am­a­teur at the time.

But now on the same con­ti­nent at the PGA Tour, a dream for so many golfers, Leonard's story took a turn.

It wasn't an overly un­com­mon turn, but it's one few peo­ple speak about.

“I kind of just, stopped lik­ing play­ing,” he said.

“It re­ally started to feel like a job for me and I found my­self look­ing for­ward to my days off.”

For years golf was his life. Train­ing un­til dark at the Ti­maru Golf Club, play­ing when he could and think­ing about the game all the time.

And then in the States, play­ing for South­ern Utah, he fell out of love with play­ing the sport.

“You've re­ally got to love it, you've got to be crazy about it be­cause it's a lonely game.”

In New Zealand, Leonard could en­joy him­self and still be one of the best in the coun­try, but now he was in the big leagues.

“You re­alise how hard it is and how hard it is to be good, or to be right at the top, once you get out of New Zealand.”

He went through the mo­tions in his last 18-months at Col­lege to fin­ish his de­gree - a ma­jor in eco­nom­ics and a mi­nor in busi­ness man­age­ment. And now he's stopped play­ing. Just how out of love the now 24-year-old is with play­ing golf is proven by the fact that he didn't take his clubs to his new job in the UK de­spite the lo­ca­tion.

Leonard is work­ing as a cad­die at the home of golf St An­drews. Think about that for an­other sec­ond; some­one who has grown up with golf at the fore­front of his mind, watch­ing, play­ing, talk­ing and breath­ing the sport, gets a job cad­dy­ing at St An­drews - 60 per cent of which is on the fa­mous Old Course - and he has no in­ter­est in play­ing. “Yeah, I'm pretty sick of it he said.” When he talked to the New Zealand Golf Mag­a­zine, he hadn't swung a club in more than three months and wasn't miss­ing it.

“I still en­joy the sport, I guess I just got sick of play­ing it."

"I didn't bring my clubs be­cause I didn't want this trip to be about golf. I wanted a break, to do a bit of travel and I guess leav­ing my clubs at home kind of proves that I'm se­ri­ous about not play­ing. It fi­nally opened up a few peo­ple's eyes to how se­ri­ous I am about it.”

He picks up bags most days - of­ten do­ing a cou­ple of rounds a day, mostly for wealthy tourists and mainly Amer­i­cans.

Once they find out he played Divi­sion One Col­le­giate golf, he tends to have their re­spect, though know­ing every inch of a course as tricky and fa­mous as the Old Course ob­vi­ously helps.

“Say­ing where I played in the States and to what level has more im­pact than telling them I played for New Zealand as a ju­nior.”

Though Leonard's not quick to tell his clients of his skills ei­ther, though if they ask he spills the beans.

“It's not about that for me. It's a job for now, like pulling pints over here though it pays a bit bet­ter,” he laughed.

“It al­lows me to travel and it looks good on my CV.”

There are two ca­reer path options open­ing up for Leonard at this stage.

He's en­joy­ing be­ing a cad­die and has made some en­quiries with young pros about try­ing him out and he has a cou­ple of bag options.

His golf brain would clearly be a ben­e­fit to a pro while his ex­pe­ri­ence of the grind could also help.

“Cad­dy­ing at a higher level is kind of an op­tion. I'll find out to­wards the end of the year. I'm lin­ing up a cou­ple of things.

“If you get the right bag, it could be a great job couldn't it?”

It ap­peals at this stage, but after com­mit­ting so long to play­ing the game, you get the feel­ing he just wants to keep his options open at the mo­ment.

Golf course or club man­age­ment is an­other path he's look­ing and has looked down.

He ap­pre­ci­ates it must seem funny to still want to be in­volved in golf de­spite not want­ing to play and knows some peo­ple won't un­der­stand.

After­all, when most of us cel­e­brate break­ing 100, 90 or even 80, it does seem odd that some­one who can skin a golf course in un­der 70 on the reg­u­lar gets sick of it. “For me it's like any job,” he said. “It makes it a lot eas­ier if you love it. If you love your job, you never work a day in your life. I look around here at St An­drews and see peo­ple who have been do­ing it too long and don't en­joy it, well I do en­joy it, it's great.

He reck­ons he might have a hit with the cad­dies soon for a bit of com­pet­i­tive fun, but the drive to play se­ri­ously is still miss­ing. As for re­grets, he's got none. “I reckon it's the best thing I've ever done in my life.”

The green on the 356 yards par 4, 15th hole 'Steel's Gem' on the Ju­bilee Course at St An­drews Links in St An­drews, Scot­land.

(T-B) A view of the R&A Club­house and the 18th green on the Old Course at St An­drews. The green on the par 4, 3rd hole 'Cart­gate' which shares it's green with the 15th hole (left) and is pro­tected by the Cart­gate Bunker on the Old Course at St An­drews.

Ti­maru's Tim Leonard ready to cad­die at St An­drews Old Course in May. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ended up be­ing two groups be­hind Leonard's group that day.

A view from be­side the green of the 'Strath Bunker' on the 174 yards par 3, 11th hole 'High In' which shares it's green with the par 4, 7th hole (be­hind) on the Old Course at St An­drews.

Tim Leonard, left, with Aussie Pro Matt Giles on the fa­mous Swilken Bridge at St An­drews Old Course.

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