02 Dec 2022 | Australian Open |
Doubter's voice ringing in Wiebe's ears
by Australian Golf Media
By Tony Webeck
There is a voice in the back of Gunner Wiebe’s head that is driving him forward.
It is not that of his father Mark, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR and whose 2013 Senior Open Championship victory is one of five on the Champions Tour.
It is not that of his wife Gianna, who is travelling with him and their daughter Monroe on their two-week trip to Australia.
It is not those of the members of Bel Air Country Club where he worked for three years in the pro shop who suggested that he should attempt a return to professional golf.
No, it is the one member who 16 months ago told him that such a pursuit would be foolish that Wiebe draws on when the odds start stacking up against him.
And they have been stacked against him for close to a decade.
Wiebe spent four years at the University of San Diego and played his way onto the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica circuit in 2013.
He spent the next three years in South America without advancing to a bigger tour before a holiday to Mexico very nearly cost him his life.
Ten minutes after arriving with a group of friends that included now wife Gianna, Wiebe walked into a glass door while carrying a suitcase.
The door shattered and cut so deeply to sever the triceps tendon of his right arm, narrowly missing a major artery that could have proved fatal.
Recovery took 14 months. He took a job in finance for five years to pay the bills. Next he accepted the position as the Assistant Professional at Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles where he did 70-hour weeks for three years.
As time ticked away, a growing band of members encouraged him to give it one last crack.
All except one.
“There’s one man in particular that, in no shorter words, told me I was making a mistake,” Wiebe revealed after a round of three-under 69 at Kingston Heath on Thursday put him in a tie for fourth.
“I think about him every day.
“Not as a bad thing, it’s just any newspaper chatter you can find or something that gives you a little extra, why not?
“I thank him daily for telling me that I was making the wrong choice.”
When he made that decision 16 months ago, Wiebe himself wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing.
He signed up for Korn Ferry Tour and DP World Tour qualifying schools this year but bowed out at stage two of Korn Ferry Tour.
That left the DP World Tour as his only avenue to a top tour, an avenue he thought had closed when he bogeyed his final hole at Second Stage in Spain.
“I thought I had to get up and down on the last to make par. I hit a great, sweet little pitch up there to four feet and I missed,” Wiebe said.
“It stung so bad at the time and then when we got in the scoring tent I found out that I was one clear of the number.”
The 33-year-old finished tied for 13th at Final Stage a week later to secure a DP World Tour card and then packed up the family and brought them to Australia to start his 2023 season Down Under.
He finished tied for 18th at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland last week and now finds himself – however unlikely it seemed 16 months ago – towards the top of the leaderboard at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open.
“They probably believed in me a little bit more than I maybe believed in myself,” Wiebe said of those at Bel Air who pushed him in this direction.
“They encouraged me to give it another go and 16 months later I’m playing in the Australian Open, which is just insane.
“It’s crazy to me.”
Even crazier is that should he feature in the final groups on Sunday at Victoria Golf Club, Wiebe can not only win the Stonehaven Cup but play his way into the 2023 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
“I’m playing for a couple of things this week on a personal level,” Wiebe explained.
“The British Open is very important to me and my family so the fact that you can earn your way into that this week is a very, very good thing to keep you going.”
As for his first taste of the sandbelt, Wiebe’s global expedition of redemption unveiled a new high watermark for golf course architecture.
“I thought last week’s course was pretty good – which it is – but Kingston Heath is unbelievable, and Victoria’s not very far behind,” he said.
“It’s within the top three golf courses I’ve ever played. Anyone who says it’s not in their top three probably needs to come and play it again.
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