ZACH Murray will this morning make his first start in a professional tournament.
The Wodonga golfing prodigy, 16, is one of a handful of amateurs invited into the Victorian PGA Championship at the Jack Nicklaus- designed St John course at the Heritage Golf and Country Club.
Murray, who was rated a 66-1 chance to win the event, earned the invitation after winning the Aaron Baddeley International Australian qualifier at the same course last year.
He spent Monday and Tuesday playing nine holes at a time and walking the other half of the course with Jack Wilson, fifth on the Australian money list after finishing third behind Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler at the Australian PGA late last year, and Asian Tour winner Kieran Pratt.
Murray said it was an invaluable experience.
“It was about getting our yardages right, knowing where to hit it,” he said.
“But I like this course and have had some good results here.
“You need to get off the tee and if you put it in the right spot then its just a matter of hitting it close.
“I need to play solid, not do anything stupid and get to the weekend.
“If I make the cut then it’s a bonus and I have nothing to lose.”
Murray said his first professional tournament was part of a huge learning curve that started with his win in the Baddeley International in China and included winning the prestigious Victorian Amateur matchplay late last year.
“It’s great to be a part of a professional tournament but I’m just approaching this as I would any other four-day tournament,” he said.
“I played a couple of practice rounds with Jack Wilson, Kieran Pratt and another amateur Todd Sinnott — who I beat in the matchplay at the Victorian Amateur and then he beat me in the Australian.
“The professional guys have been great.
“They have offered some tips about preparation and the course.”
The field is headlined by three-time European Tour winner Peter O’Malley, two-time NZ PGA champion Michael Hendry, Japan Tour winner Kurt Barnes and OneAsia Order of Merit winner Matthew Griffin.
Looking to make a mark on tour in 2014 is former Australian PGA champion Daniel Popovic, who begins his campaign at his home course for the Victorian PGA Championship.
Other young guns in the field are Western Australia’s Brody Ninyette, WA Goldfields PGA champion Wilson and Pratt.