EYE ON THE PRIZE: Graham Banister leads the field heading into the final day of the Australian Legends Tour Championship being played at Byron Bay.
EYE ON THE PRIZE: Graham Banister leads the field heading into the final day of the Australian Legends Tour Championship being played at Byron Bay. Victor Frailegetty Images

Back in the swing

A SYDNEY golfer who gave up a promising career in the sport to complete a university degree and pursue a successful business career in the United States is leading the seniors tournament at Byron Bay.

Graham Banister, now 56, hit his second consecutive two-under-par round of 70 to be four under after 36 holes of the Schweppes / Nor-East Drinks Australian Legends Tour Championship.

He is one shot ahead of Queenslanders Terry Price and Peter Senior going into the final day.

When Banister was 17, he was rated one of the best young golfers in Australia and finished second to Greg Norman in a major junior tournament.

But he opted for study over professional golf. He began a business career and became a software entrepreneur. He married and started a family and he moved to the United States.

He played less and less golf as the demands of business and family absorbed his time.

Then several years ago, after playing golf only a few times a year for 20 years, with his business doing well and his children growing older, Banister began to play more.

"I had started playing with a group of weekend golfers at a local public course and had steadily improved to the point where I was averaging under par each week," Banister said.

Urged on by his friends, he entered a big North Carolina amateur tournament.

"I surprised myself by finishing second and realised that I still enjoyed playing tournament golf," he said.

He played tournaments on the US Senior Tour from 2007 to 2010 and this year also played on the European and Asian senior tours.

Byron Bay Golf Club professional Greg Stewart was upbeat yesterday.

"Peter Senior and Ian Baker-Finch went out mid-morning and received fantastic support in their rounds," he said.

"The tournament has been well supported and the weather has been sensational."

Next on the leaderboard after Banister, Price and Senior are Paul Dalgleish (NSW) at two-under and Victorian Mike Harwood at even par.

Price's round of four-under 68 was one of the highlights yesterday but it was a tougher day for Harwood, who slipped back with a 75 after leading on the first day.

Matt Crandell, who carded a 72, is the best of the amateurs at two-under par while Byron Bay ladies champion Mandy Carney impressed with 42 points in the modified stableford format.

The tournament will be completed today when the professionals have the course to themselves.

It's a 10am shotgun start and spectators are welcome.



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