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
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.