Travelling to compete in international golf tournaments, pro golfer Marc Leishman still blocks out three weeks on the calendar per year to return to his home town of Warrnambool.
The former Warrnambool resident is based in the US with his American wife Audrey and their two sons — Harvey, who turns two this month, and Oliver, five months — and Leishman wants them to grow up knowing how much the south-west means to him.
When his busy schedule, which includes more than 30 weeks on the road, allows he likes nothing more than spending time with loved ones in Australia and his young family in their Virginia Beach home.
Despite the US city boasting a population of more than one million people, the couple chooses to live on the outskirts of town where they are not far from the beach, yet surrounded by cornfields and a quieter lifestyle, reminiscent of his days in Warrnambool.
“I’d hate to live with concrete all around me,” Leishman said.
“I like to have a bit of space. Warrnambool’s definitely put that in me I think, and being near the beach as well. I don’t think I’d be able to live anywhere where there was no beach.”
Each November the couple returns to Warrnambool, scheduling their visit between Australian golf tournaments, to see Leishman’s parents Paul and Pelita, his sister and grandparents and extended family and friends. The couple celebrate Christmas in Warrnambool every second year, alternating between Warrnambool and the US.
“They’re all here so I’ve got a lot of things to come back to,” Leishman said.
Leishman, who attended secondary school at Brauer College, has fond memories of growing up by the beach, the seasonal southern right whale visits and childhood drives with his family to Thunder Point and the breakwater when they had half an hour to spare.
“It’s good to come back to where you know,” Leishman said.
“There’s so many good memories here. It will be good once the boys are old enough to take them down to the beach and go to the rock pools and find crabs and all that cool stuff. Those sort of memories are pretty good (and) to relive them.”
He hopes to instil in his boys the importance of Warrnambool and Australia to him.
“It would be good if it felt like a second home for them. My mum and dad are here, their grandparents. We’ll come back here as much as we can, for sure.”
Leishman is incredibly down-to-earth and friendly, which he agreed may be a result of his country upbringing.
“Yeah I think so. You see some guys change a little bit. If I was to change — I don’t think I ever would — but there’d be plenty of people from back here who would soon give me a smack over the back of the head and get me back in line. It’s good, I definitely never want to change.”
He said locals were fortunate to have quality courses at Warrnambool and Port Fairy in such close proximity. He has a soft spot for the Warrnambool course, where he spent much of his teenage years perfecting his swing.
“That’s just what I loved and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t like I was going out there to work. I was going out there to have fun and I was getting better because I was having fun. It’s how it generally works.
“It’s a good course to learn at because they’ve got really hilly greens. You have to hit it straight but there’s certain holes where if you’ve got length you can take advantage of them, if you hit them long off the tee.
“You’ve got to be long and straight and putt good, which is probably the three most important things in golf. I think it’s a really good course to develop your game on.”
Leishman has come to realise how safe and livable the south-west is after living in the US, where he has twice been threatened at gunpoint.
“The more you travel, the more you realise how lucky we were here with everything you had. You could walk down the street and not worry about being robbed. You have stuff happen when you’re away that opens your eyes. You never think about it happening here. I never thought about it, then you go away and weird stuff happens.
“Someone pulls a gun on you or stuff you don’t need but that never happened here. It’s a good spot.”
When Leishman’s away he misses his family and Australian food — with three Warrnambool eateries some of the first places he visits when he returns to the south west.
“I always go to Kermond’s for a hamburger, I go to Logan’s (Restaurant) for the calamari and Lozzar’s for a good coffee. They’re probably the three main ones,” he said.
“It’d be nice to get a place here eventually, but at the moment we’re only spending two or three weeks here a year. Maybe in 10 years time it would be nice to spend a few months here a year, but time will tell”.