Louis Dobbelaar en route to winning the NZ PGA Championship. Photo courtesy PGA of Australia.

By Tony Webeck

IN a parallel universe populated predominantly by Marvel superheroes, it would have been Louis Dobbelaar who won the 2021 Australian PGA Championship.

That year’s Joe Kirkwood Cup wasn’t contested until January the following year, almost a year to the day from Dobbelaar’s victory at the Australian Amateur Championship.

Coming from the same Grant Field stable that was ushering Cam Smith towards Open Championship glory, Dobbelaar was the one anointed the ‘next big thing’.

In 2021 alone he won the Australian Amateur at Kooyonga by two strokes, finished tied for third at TPS Sydney, won two of America’s most prestigious amateur titles and turned pro in time to earn his PGA Tour Latinoamerica card at Qualifying School, the first step on the path towards the PGA Tour.

“It’s motivating because they’re guys that you’ve played with and competed against for years.”

Back home in Brisbane in January 2022, Dobbelaar shot 64 to hold the outright lead after Round 1 of the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland.

And then Jed happened.

Almost two years Dobbelaar’s senior and an almost constant teammate in Queensland Interstate squads, Jed Morgan had won the Australian Amateur in 2020 to headline his own impressive amateur resume, but no one could have predicted what would come next.

He smashed records on his way to 22-under and an 11-stroke victory, Dobbelaar taking third a distant 12 shots from top spot.

In an abbreviated season, that win alone was enough to secure Morgan the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit. He was given a DP World Tour card, earned exemptions into majors and invited to take up one of 48 spots within LIV Golf.

Dobbelaar doesn’t begrudge his mate any of it, but can’t help wonder what might have been.

“Yeah, there’s times when you’re kicking yourself, if you have a chance, but hindsight’s a beautiful thing,” says Dobbelaar, who along with Morgan were the first two recipients of the Cameron Smith Scholarship in 2018.

“It’s motivating because they’re guys that you’ve played with and competed against for years. It’s super exciting to see your mates doing well. It’s always extra motivation to get there yourself as well.

“There’s been a lot of things I’ve learned in the past couple of years that I probably wasn’t ready for, as a professional. I wouldn’t change my journey.”

Dobbelaar in session with Cam Smith.

Due to turn 22 on August 31, it is credit to Dobbelaar that he has stayed the course.

After a rookie season in which he finished third at the Australian PGA and Queensland PGA, fifth at TPS Hunter Valley and tied for ninth at the WA PGA, Dobbelaar endured an indifferent 2022/2023 season.

He missed the cut at both the Australian PGA and Australian Open, withdrew from one tournament and missed two cuts in three international starts and then finished tied for 30th at the New Zealand Open.

A week later he was crowned champion at the New Zealand PGA Championship at Gulf Harbour.

At the risk of joining those promising amateurs who struggle to transition through the professional ranks step by step, Field believes that win alone can instil the confidence Dobbelaar needs to assert himself on the upcoming ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia season in a similar vein to David Micheluzzi this past year.

“Depending on what the next few months bring, if he ends up back on the Australasian Tour, I think he may very well do that,” says Field.

“That win in New Zealand just gives him that little bit of belief that he’s on the right track.

“Sometimes it’s easy to hear it from other people, but to actually believe it can be a little bit challenging for him, especially if you’re
not quite getting the results you think you should.

“He’s a great player, and he’s destined for good things. We’ve just got to stay on track and keep moving forward.

“He might not have his name up in lights as much as some of the others right at this stage, but he’s definitely heading in the right direction.” 

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