Brady Watt, next stop number one

Brady Watt
Brady Watt

With the possible exception of New Zealand's wunderkind Lydia Ko, winner of three professional tournaments before she blows the candles out on her 16th birthday cake, Australia might well have the hottest young amateur golfer in the world.

Brady Watt is 22 and still pondering that inevitable moment that he turns professional and goes on the touring roundabout to far-flung parts. But his results in recent times have vaulted him to a world No. 2 ranking, and the young man from Royal Perth Golf Club would be the nominal favourite for the prestigious Riversdale Cup in Melbourne this week.

Watt has reached that enviable point when his game came together, having been on the verge for several years now, including a groundbreaking win in the 2011 Lake Macquarie Amateur. In short, his golf game has clicked.

"I think that I just don't let things get to me like I used to,'' is his explanation, but he did not need a sports psychologist to tell him that he was getting in his own way. It was his father, Robin, who delivered the advice.

Robin Watt played state and national-level softball for Western Australia, also plays plenty of golf, and remains a strong confidante of his talented son. "He's a good person to speak to,'' said Brady Watt. "He's played top-level sport.''

The Western Australian said he was "never an angry person'' on the course. It was just that his expectations were too high, striving for perfection in a game where it is only a dream. The top Australian coach Steve Bann once called golf a "70 percent game'', in that if a player could hit 70 percent of fairways they might lead the statistics in some of the best tours in the world. The problem in golf, under Bann's notion, is that golfers tend to worry more about the other 30 percent.

But not Watt, or not any longer at least. In his new, mellow phase, he has won the Keperra Bowl, the Dunes amateur, and along with his Australian teammates, the Ten Nations Cup in South Africa. He was the top individual player in that competition, shooting 20-under-par including a second-round 62.

In January he dominated the first three rounds of the Master of the Amateurs tournament at Royal Melbourne, taking a four-shot lead into a windy final round before faltering. He four-putted the treacherous sixth green and ultimately lost to Queensland's Viraat Badhwar.

Watt also came close to a momentous win in a professional tournament, the WA Open at Royal Perth, reaching a playoff with his friend and fellow-amateur Oliver Goss that stretched to five holes. Ultimately Watt flubbed a chip shot at the fifth hole and Goss, with a three-metre putt for birdie, would hold on to become the first amateur since Stephen Leaney in 1991 to win the WA Open. Watt finished runner-up, but they both took benefits from the experience. "We're great mates,'' said Watt. "We looked at it as a win, either way.''

Last month, Golf Australia added Watt to its national squad on the tier two, and he has a big year ahead. After the Riversdale Cup 72-hole tournament this week he will head to America to play in three big amateur titles, including the fabled US amateur at the Brookline Country Club in Massachussets. He is also playing the British amateur this year.

Watt has a sense of the game's history, which is interesting. He recently watched the Bobby Jones movie "Stroke of Genius'', enjoying how the strands of the game and its ethics and values "all came together''. He also saw ''The Greatest Game Every Played'', the story of Francois Ouimet's win in the 1913 US Open, and noted that the famous tournament was played at the Brookline country club, where he will contest the amateur title this August.

Watt says his life is coming together and it has reflected in his improved golf. By night he works as a supervisor at a cleaning company in Perth; by day he practises his game.
"Things have come together for me on a few levels,'' he said. "Work is great, family is great, the support structure is around me. It means I can just go out and play golf and enjoy it.''

The Riversdale Cup, inaugurated in 1896 and one of the top three amateur tournaments in the country, begins tomorrow at the pretty Riversdale Golf Club in Melbourne's eastern suburbs. Watt is the top-ranked male player while Su-Hyun Oh, 16, of Kingswood Golf Club is the top-ranked female player at world No. 4.