ONE is a two-time PGA Tour winner, a player to have twice hoisted the Stonehaven Cup as Australian Open champion, who more recently shot an incredible 23-under par in the final two rounds in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The other has ambition to achieve similar results with good judges believing he has the game, attitude and potential to achieve his goals.
There is close to a 20-year age gap between Matt Jones and Blake Windred, who were raised in different eras and have contrasting backgrounds. But one thing they have in common is their golf coach, Gary Barter.
He has taken Jones all the way to the world’s richest tour and is guiding Windred on a journey of professional golfing discovery. From Sydney’s south, Jones found Barter some 25 years ago through a family connection and the pair have remained together ever since.
For Windred, the winner of the Vic PGA Championship late last year, it was a relationship that began at an elite junior camp held when he too was an ambitious 15-year-old.
“Matt has been amazingly loyal,” Barter recalled. “He started seeing me in 1996 when he was 15.
“It actually happened because my mum was a caterer and Gary’s wife worked for a law firm,” Jones said.
“Mum was catering an event and got to talking with Nicole about how I played golf and how Nicole’s husband was a golf instructor at the Australian Golf Club.”
Under Barter’s tutelage, Jones would become one of the country’s best juniors, competing with the likes of Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley, before leaving for the US and the Arizona State University.
“Back in 2000, when I was in college, I would send VHS tapes to Gary,” Jones recounted. “It would take a week or so to get back to him.
“Gary had helped me understand the swing so well that I had become more self-reliant. And Gary knew my swing so well that I could tell him the type of ball flight I was getting and he could help fix it without seeing the swing.”
The player-coach relationship continued to blossom from a distance. Following his college career, Jones graduated from the secondary US Nationwide Tour to the “big show” in 2008. Through it all, Barter communicating via the technology of the time while also regularly making the 15-hour commute to catch up with Jones in person.
“Since 2004 I’ve been over there six times a year on average, if not more,” Barter said.
Over the past few years Covid and the associated travel issues put the face-to-face catch-ups on hold, however the pair reunited in Hawaii in January with Jones explaining why he was never tempted to switch to an American-based instructor.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen Gary since the pandemic began back in March 2020,” Jones said. “We’ve had endless hours of FaceTime lessons in that time and I have probably sent him 1000 swings in those 21 months but to have him here is great.
“I’ve actually never been tempted to try a new coach or US-based coach because I have such a belief in Gary and his instruction. I think Gary’s knowledge and understanding of the golf swing is second to none and that’s why I wouldn’t change.”
Jones’s incredible 32-under par total in finishing third behind Cam Smith and Jon Rahm at Kapalua is testimony to the above sentiment.
“We always joke that after one hour he could fly back to Australia because he gets me hitting it so well so quickly,” Jones added.
Jones’s ball-striking and overall game is world class as he begins his 14th year on the US PGA Tour while Windred is still in the early stages of his professional golfing career.
Although Jones may never know it, by reputation he had something to do with Windred and Barter forming the partnership they hope will prove to be equally successful.
“He was coaching Jonesy from a young age and in the back of my mind I see him winning Australian Opens, PGA Tour events and these are things I have as goals and on my bucket list,” Windred said.
Windred turned pro late in 2019 and after a number of strong results was impressive in notching his first victory as a pro in the Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links.
Barter has seen enough on the range and at tournament sites from Windred to be predicting an extremely bright future.
“Blake is a very solid player,” Barter said. “He has no weaknesses.
“He’s a professional, he embraces life on tour, likes travelling and likes competing, documents his practice, wants to win big championships. He’s got the desire, the attitude, ticks every box,” Barter added.
After playing the Australian PGA, the Queensland PGA Championship in Brisbane, Windred travelled to South Africa to kick off his European Challenge Tour season. A strong year on the European secondary tour will see him start to take the steps forward that he and Barter envisage and after that, according to his coach, the sky is the limit.
“I can see him in that top 100 in the world,” Barter said. “From there you can’t predict where someone is going to go.”
Two talented professionals, both seemingly headed in the right direction, with one of Australia’s leading golf instructors helping them on their way.