27 Sep 2022 | Professional golf |

Gale gunning for Rory McIlroy showdown at Dunhill Links

by Australian Golf Media

Daniel Gale.

By Tony Webeck

Inspired by Cameron Smith’s Open heroics in July, Daniel Gale wants to heap more St Andrews heartache onto Rory McIlroy at this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

Already home to the Champion Golfer of the Year, Australia will be heavily represented at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns thanks to the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia’s Strategic Partnership with the DP World Tour.

The top 10 players who finished inside the top 25 on the 2021/2022 Order of Merit earned entry into one of the DP World Tour’s most iconic events, an opportunity that has been eagerly snapped up.

Order of Merit champion Jed Morgan, runner-up Blake Windred, Aaron Pike (fifth), Louis Dobbelaar (sixth), Austin Bautista (ninth), Gale (10th), Jordan Zunic (12th), David Micheluzzi (14th), Nathan Barbieri (16th) and Josh Armstrong (17th) will tee it up on the Scottish links, joining Scott Hend, Maverick Antcliff, Zach Murray and special invite Geoff Ogilvy in a 14-strong Aussie contingent.

For players such as Gale, it is a rare opportunity to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in golf and it is a showdown he is not shying away from.

“It’s awesome to have this opportunity. The bonus from having a good season in Aus is awesome,” said Gale, who once played nine holes with six-time Major champion Nick Faldo as part of the Faldo Series.

“That’s the thing with golf, you just need an opportunity to be able to pursue something and that’s how you spring on.

“I’m just stoked to finally be playing an event that Rory’s going to be playing. I’ve never played an event with him and just the calibre of players this week.

“Especially the form Rory’s been in, I hope I can go toe-to-toe with him come Sunday and emulate what Cam did.

“Hopefully it’s my week.”

A member of the 2016 New South Wales Interstate team that also featured current PGA TOUR players Cameron Davis and Harrison Endycott and last week’s Asian Tour winner Travis Smyth, Gale has been patiently awaiting his chance to also join the big time.

Winner of the SP PNG Open in his rookie season in 2018, COVID has stalled the 26-year-old’s progress on the international stage.

Those doors have now opened and thanks to his performance over the Australasian season – highlighted by back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Queensland PGA and TPS Victoria – Gale has access to Second Stage of qualifying school for both the Korn Ferry Tour and DP World Tour.

He Monday qualified his way into a PGA TOUR debut at the 3M Open in July and is now ready to take his game to the world.

“My rookie year, winning in PNG was a big confidence booster and I knew I was ready for pro life and that I belonged,” he added.

“I haven’t quite sprung on the way I thought I would since then but this past season – the consistency and the way I put myself in contention a lot – and going overseas and qualifying for the PGA TOUR event was a big step forward.

“It’s easy looking from outside the ropes and having a perception but actually being inside the ropes, I felt completely comfortable in that situation.

“I definitely know that my game is ready to take the next step.”

Gale is also familiar with the famous venue that he will step onto this week.

He played the 2015 St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur and while he didn’t make the cut, was given an insight into what a big tournament at the Home of Golf looks and feels like.

“We were lucky enough to play it three weeks before The Open and all the grandstands and signage was up,” Gale recalled.

“In the practice round that week, one of the greenkeepers was on the fifth hole with a pair of scissors and he was trimming the grass edging around every single sprinkler head.

“That’s when you know it is a very special place.”

The unique element of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is that professionals are paired with actors, athletes and titans of business.

Although his mate and sometime playing partner, Storm star Ryan Papenhuyzen, won’t be there this week, Gale is excited at the prospect of the company he will share.

“Ray Romano has played in past years, if I got someone like him… Everyone’s watched Everybody Loves Raymond,” Gale enthused.

“I wouldn’t know what to ask him but it’s just awesome to be part of it all.”

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