SPORTS

Hend Seeking Elusive Fiji Win

He won’t say he has a score to settle at the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways but Scott Hend definitely feels he has unfinished business at the Natadola Bay
21 Jul 2018 10:55
Hend Seeking Elusive Fiji Win
Scott Hend. Photo credit: PGA of Australia

He won’t say he has a score to settle at the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways but Scott Hend definitely feels he has unfinished business at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.

The popular Queenslander began the final round in 2017 sharing fourth place and just three shots behind 54-hole leader Wade Ormsby.

One of the most experienced and successful players in the field, he rightly felt he had a genuine chance to take the title but having done all the hard work to get himself into posi­tion things didn’t go his way in the final round.

An adventurous front-9 of 1-over that included just one par – Hend amassed five bogeys against two birdies and an eagle – all but ending his chances, an aggravating end to an other­wise encouraging week.

“From tee to green I probably hit the ball as good as I had for the whole week and to not convert on the Sunday and win the tournament was very frustrating,” said Hend.

“The pressure was really on to win because I think if I had won that tournament I definitely would have got the pick for the Presidents Cup.

“I got into position and I guess my putter let me down on Sunday. I just couldn’t hole the putts and Norrey (eventual winner Jason Norris) played fantastically and holed the putts he had to hole and shot some great scores to win.”

Hend is no stranger to Fiji having played there early in his golf career but said when he returned for the first time in many years in 2017, he was pleasantly surprised how far the country – and golf in Fiji – had come.

“I was really excited and pleased to see the quality of the Natadola Bay course when I arrived last year,” added Hend.

“Fiji has always been a special place and it hasn’t lost any of that magic. You stay in the hotel there and have breakfast looking out over the ocean and it’s just an island paradise.

“But the golf course there is also a quality golf course. The way it’s been designed – it’s a really good design and very playable.”

Hend says the Natadola Bay layout, and the strong winds which often blow across the course, suit his style of play and he is confident and keen about his return trip this year.

“The real key to the golf course is the wind. If it gets windy then the guy who’s striking the ball quite well and can ma­noeuvre it about, he’s the guy who will be up there at the end,” he said.

“That’s what we saw last year with the wind. The proficient ball strikers sort of came to the top a little bit.

“I played with Jason on the Saturday and he was striking the ball quite cleanly so it didn’t surprise me he was up there. Then he also had the putter rolling so when you get those two things together, it usually all falls into place.”

While returning to Fiji is a trip down memory lane in some ways for Hend he said he also recognises the tournament is a significant opportunity for many of those in the field.

“The field strength for Australian golfers and the opportu­nity for those guys are fantastic,” he said.

“The guys who play the Pro-Am circuit and are looking to advance their careers, a tournament like this is really, really big.

“It’s a rare opportunity. If you can have a good week here and get a win you get a two-year exemption in Asia…it could be life-changing for some of those guys.”

There’s no question Hend has a genuine liking for Fiji and the tournament; his travel itinerary just to take part is proof of his commitment.

He will play the Porsche European Open in Hamburg the week before then beginning a long and adventurous route to the South Pacific ahead of Thursday’s tee time.

“Sunday night I fly Hamburg to London then London to Singapore then Singapore to Fiji,” added Hend who will fly direct from Singapore to Nadi on Fiji Airways.

“It’s a fair trip but at least you know it’s going to be nice and relaxing once you get there!”

Hend will be among the favourites when the Fiji Interna­tional presented by Fiji Airways tees off at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course and rightly so.

In a season which has seen him not quite at his best thanks to an injury flare-up he has been steadily building back to form and feels he is ready to contend again.

“The hardest part about winning is actually getting your­self in position,” he says.

“Sooner or later, if you get there enough, you hope once or twice it all falls your way but just trying to get there is the hardest part.

“Golf tournaments are so competitive these days that there are not many times you can go out and shoot even par or 1-un­der in the last round and just win. You have to keep pushing.

“But I’ve done a lot of hard work this year and sooner or later it’s going to fall into place. It’s just a matter of timing and you’ve got to be persistent with it.”

Don’t be surprised if that time comes Sunday evening in Fiji, says Gavin Kirkman CEO of the PGA of Australia which owns the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and along with Sports and Entertainment Limited owns the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.

“Scott Hend is a highly accomplished golfer recording 14 wins around the world and representing Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics so to have a player of his calibre returning to the play the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways shows the positive reputation the tournament has built on the world stage.

“The distance that players like Scott are travelling to tee up in the tournament is also a testament to the beauty and hospitality of Fiji; the players all love playing in the Fiji In­ternational presented by Fiji Airways.”

-Fiji International Presented by Fiji Airways

Feedback: nikolau.ravai@fijisun.com.fj



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