Emergency spot leads to dream come true as Dylan O'Keeffe prepares for professional debut

AN unexpected phone call gave Warrnambool golfer Dylan O’Keeffe the news he craved — he has a spot in the field for today’s Victorian PGA in Melbourne’s outer east.

The 21-year-old will make his professional debut in an Australasian PGA Tour event after enduring an emotional rollercoaster earlier this week.

O’Keeffe narrowly missed one of 24 positions in the field for the event at Heritage Golf and Country Club after carding a three-over 75 in Monday’s qualifying. He was among nine players one shot outside the qualifying mark.

But he triumphed in a sudden-death three-hole play-off to become the first emergency should a player withdraw.

O’Keeffe packed his clubs and drove back to Warrnambool to celebrate girlfriend April Hetherington’s 21st birthday. On Tuesday he practised at Port Fairy, then decided to return to Melbourne prepared to sweat on someone withdrawing.

He got the call while passing through Derrinallum.

Buoyed with getting a start, O’Keeffe started heading towards Heritage at Chirnside Park for more practice.

A burst radiator hose slowed his progress, but he made it.

While his car was being repaired yesterday, the left-hander was playing another practice round on the St John’s course.

“I’m just rapt to get a start,” O’Keeffe said.

“Obviously making the cut will be the first step and we’ll see where it goes from there. If I make the cut I would be ecstatic.”

O’Keeffe, who missed securing his tour card late last year, is excited about getting a chance to test his game.

He admitted he had struggled in recent pro-am events.

“I haven’t come off good form coming in,” he said.

But the way he finished qualifying on Monday has given him confidence. He slipped to four-over after 14 holes but birdied the par-five 15th to give himself a chance. 

He said he made a “10-foot” (about three metres) putt for par on the last and then rolled in a six-metre birdie putt at the first play-off hole, which saw six players eliminated. 

He narrowly missed another long chance at the second play-off hole, before draining another six-metre putt to secure the first emergency spot.

But O’Keeffe is under no illusions about his presence on tour.

“I think I would have to win it to get a start at the next event,” he said.

“If nothing else it’s a stepping stone for me. It’s a positive start to the year.”

O’Keeffe finished his traineeship with Port Fairy pro Paul Smith at the end of December and is determined to pursue a playing career. He has Port Fairy friend Pepe Cavalieri on his bag this week.

Warrnambool Golf Club’s Jack Redford, who finished his traineeship with Craig Bonney at the end of last month, carded a four-over 76 in Monday’s qualifying. He will carry the bag for trainee of the year and one of the event’s favourites, Jack Wilson.

Dylan O’Keeffe will make his professional debut in an Australasian PGA Tour event today.

Dylan O’Keeffe will make his professional debut in an Australasian PGA Tour event today.