Winner of the 2007 Australian Seniors PGA Championship, David Merriman, from Sydney.
Winner of the 2007 Australian Seniors PGA Championship, David Merriman, from Sydney. The Northern Star/Cathy Adams

David Merriman ready for the Byron Senior's PGA

THE appearance of a small black and white bird in the bar of the Byron Bay Golf Club yesterday provided the perfect opportunity for 2007 Australian Seniors PGA winner David Merriman to make a timely quip.

“That’s my first birdie for the weekend,” he said.

The affable Sydneysider is back in Byron to defend his title, but knows he will have to string together birdies of a completely different type if he is to have any chance of holding off a quality field that includes Rodger Davis, Terry Gale and Mike Ferguson.

“The field is probably a bit stronger this year than it was last year and obviously the guy that wins it they are going to try and beat, but I am just going to go out and play my normal game, and play the golf course, and see what happens at the end of the week,” Merriman said.

It was exactly the same approach Merriman took to the tournament last year, when he only realised he was in the lead as he was about to play the final hole.

“Any win is a great win, but winning the Australian Senior PGA that was awesome, it almost came out of the blue,” he said.

“I just pottered my way around the golf course and didn’t think I was in with a chance.

“A couple of the leaders fell over near the end and all of a sudden I am in the front.

“I didn’t even know that I was leading the tournament until about one hole to go.”

Despite all the pressure, Merriman was able to steady his nerves and walked away with the winner’s cheque.

“One of my old sayings, as soon as I get into a pressure situation, is to say, ‘Love pressure, eat it for breakfast’,” he said.

“If you try and convince yourself that you like a situation then it makes it easier.”

Merriman is fresh from his second season on the European tour, where his wife Kelsey caddied for him. The couple travelled to far flung tournaments in Russia and Poland.

However, the undoubted highlight was playing alongside Greg Norman in the third round of the Senior British Open.

The ‘Shark’ shot a round of 67 that day at Royal Troon in Scotland, but Merriman was not far behind on 69.

“In my first year on the European tour I finished 22nd on the order of merit and second on the Australian Seniors merit list,” he said.

“In 2008, again I finished 22nd and was runner-up on the senior Australian tour, so there is a certain amount of similarity there.”

Another pro with a story to tell yesterday was Manly’s Dave Saunders, who got trapped in Thailand because of the civil unrest, and had to be evacuated from the country via a circuitous route.

“It ended up being an all-expenses paid holiday,” Saunders said.

“But the only problem was that I missed out on a tournament in Townsville because we just couldn’t get out of the country. It was impossible.

“But all credit to the Thai people. They did all they could to look after us and the same for Qantas, who went out of their way to fly us out of Phuket, sending in a jumbo to fly us out.”

The Australian Seniors PGA tournament at Byron Bay officially gets underway on Friday, but some pros will be playing alongside the members over the coming days and there’s a skins game arranged for tomorrow.

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