Jake McLeod’s mates are going to Europe next year on a holiday of a lifetime; after a dramatic final round of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on Sunday the 24-year-old Queenslander will now be able to join them.
It will be a working holiday for McLeod after he secured a one-year exemption on the European Tour by taking out the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit, his rewards also include entry into two World Golf Championship events.
Only a month ago McLeod had given no thought to his position on the Order of Merit but a win at the AV Jennings NSW Open and third-place finish at the Emirates Australian Open yielded $156,375 alone and elevated him to top spot with just one event left to play.
Weekend rounds of 75-74 opened the door for Canberra veteran Matthew Millar to make a late play for the title but Millar’s tie for third and McLeod’s top-20 finish were just enough for the Hills International graduate to claim the card to one of the world’s richest tours.
Which in turn means a change of plans for his mates.
“I’ve got a few mates going to Europe next year on holiday, so they’ll have to venture over to wherever I am,” said McLeod, who finished $19,085 clear of Millar on $255,326 with Daniel Nisbet holding on for third.
“They said, can you please play over there so we can come and watch you. I said, I’ll try and do it.
“They’re going all over Europe. They go on those Sail Croatia cruises and all those sorts of things.
“I’ve got a mate up in Aberdeen, he came to watch at Dunhill so I’m sure he’ll come over to a couple of events and one of my good mates, Andrew Joyce, already lives in the UK.
“He’s pretty stoked. He’s already messaged me so he can come to a few events next year.”
It was fitting that as Cameron Smith further cemented his status in world golf with a second consecutive Joe Kirkwood Cup that McLeod, a former Queensland Boys teammate of Smith’s, would himself take a significant step torward.
In the space of four weeks McLeod will rise from 437th in the world to just outside the top-100 and says Smith’s rapid ascension has been an inspiration.
“It’s been great to see him play over the last couple years,” said McLeod, who won the Boys Interstate Series alongside Smith in 2013.
“My game’s still not there, but I think it’s pretty close.
“When you see guys like that that you’ve played with before do that, then I think it gives me the belief that I can do it as well.
“You just need the opportunities and now I’ve got the opportunities, hopefully I can have some good results over there.”
After a tense final round and ultimate two-shot win over Leishman, Smith perhaps saved his broadest grin for McLeod’s achievement.
“That’s awesome,” Smith said of McLeod’s Order of Merit triumph.
“I grew up with Jakey, played on a lot of state teams with Jakey, practiced endless hours when we were 15, 16, 17 years old.
“It’s good to see him going real good. I’ve always seen him as a really good player.
“He stuck to what he knows and he’s pulling it off, which is good for him.”