Victorian pro Matt Griffin’s time on the OneAsia tour has taught him that playing – let alone winning – in Korea can be a harrowing task.
Simply having enough golf balls to hit on the practice range is considered a luxury at Korean events where locals perennially dominate leaderboards.
But the 29-year-old cracked the code with a win at May’s weather-shortened SK Telecom Open.
His second win on OneAsia and third as a professional netted him the biggest cheque of his career – $184,000.
“Your first win always has a bigger significance because it’s the first time you’ve done it but this one was really special,” Griffin says.
“That time last year I wasn’t going a long way with my golf so I guess the 12 months since then has been great.
Heavy fog forced organisers of the SK Telecom Open to suspend the final round with Griffin finishing one-shot clear after 54 holes.
“It was a long wait on Sunday because I was at the course by eight and it didn’t end up getting called off until just before 12.”
Griffin – a member at Victoria Golf Club on the Melbourne sandbelt – found himself in the final group on the Saturday, one shot behind Korean Chang-Yoon Kim.
He made par at his final hole amid brutal conditions to seal the unconventional win.
“Playing the 18th hole was a 450-metre par four straight back into the breeze and I couldn’t actually get there for two. I played the hole just trying to give myself a chance at making par and I guessed if I made bogey, worst-case scenario, I went into the last round tied for the lead.
It was a grandstand finish for Griffin who steadied himself to hole a putt of close to 30 feet from the back fringe of the green.
“It was downhill, had quite a bit of break on it. It was a tough putt. The wind was howling, it was raining at the time. I was standing over the putt really thinking it’d be nice to make it but if I two-putt I wouldn’t be unhappy so it was a big bonus.
The SK Telecom has been a happy hunting ground for Aussies with New South Welshman Kurt Barnes winning in 2011.
But Griffin says events in Korea typically yield incredible dominance from locals.
“Korea is sort of known as the hardest place to go as foreigners and play. Their courses are a little different, they tend to have the fairways a little bit longer, they put some tough pins out there on a lot of slopes. Traditionally, out of the top 20 there might be one or two foreigners.
Griffin also says treatment of players in Korea is heavily biased in favour of locals.
“You can be limited with the amount of balls you can hit on the range. You sign your name off and you only get one bucket and that’s it for the day. It tends to be dependent on who you are to how many balls you get.
With the win, Griffin has added flexibility to build his schedule, forcing him to re-evaluate his goals for the remainder of 2013.
“You’ve got security on the tour and the money sort of allows you to go and test yourself out and have a good crack at a tour school at the end of the year. Perth International is a big week because it’s co-sanctioned with Europe so if you can win that then suddenly you’re on the European Tour. Having the win helps because you can sort of target events a bit more.”
Griffin’s win is yet another notch in the belt of Australian golf for 2013.
The Victorian admits Adam Scott’s stirring win at the US Masters played a part in his victory.
“Since he won and Brett Rumford won a couple of times, Aussies seem to be winning all the time. Watching it was just so exciting and it shows Aussie golf’s going the right way. When you see Adam doing that, it gives you a bit of a spur on to try and follow it up.”
Griffin will take most of July off at home in Melbourne in a bid to rest up ahead of the Australian summer of golf.
“I’m going to do a bit more work with my coach Denis McDade and also try and get some good work done in the gym. Once it gets to August, the schedule with Australia, tour schools and OneAsia is really busy so I’ll freshen up before all that.
Looking ahead to November, Griffin will return to his childhood neighbourhood, desperate to don the gold jacket with victory at the Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne.
“I grew up really close to Royal, my first coach was Bruce Green, the head pro at Royal and I worked there for four or five years. I’ve always loved the golf course. It’s one of the reasons I started playing.”