Who is Jake McLeod? Meet the qualifier from The Open Qualifying Series Australia
The Open Qualifying Series is up and running, as three men booked their place at Royal Portrush at the Australian Open.
Taking place at The Lakes in Sydney – Abraham Ancer, Dimitrios Papadatos and Jake McLeod finished as the top three to qualify for The 148th Open next July.
But who are the three men who will be teeing it up in Royal Portrush? We will be profiling each of the qualifiers – rounding off our series with third-placed McLeod.
Cutting his teeth
A product of peaceful Far North Queensland, the youngster competed in state amateur tournaments alongside Brisbane’s Cameron Smith – the world number 33.
Having turned professional in 2015, McLeod underlined his ability to perform on home soil with a fourth-placed finish at the Isuzu Queensland Open.
The Aussie soon proved himself in the cut and thrust of PGA Australasia, recording four top-10 finishes in two seasons, including eighth at the Western Australia Championship.
A flying start to 2017 saw him claim second place in the Oates Victoria Open in February, including a stunning second-round 61 followed by ninth at the Victorian PGA.
Yet, after missing the cut at the 2018 edition of the Victorian PGA this month and having endured an inconsistent season, not even McLeod himself could have seen what was coming.
Super Sydney set-up
McLeod pulled the best golf of his career out of the bag, surging to a first tour victory at the NSW Open at Twin Creeks in Sydney.
The Queenslander put on a Saturday show to remember with a course-record 62 seeing him grasp the initiative in style. Going into Sunday with the lead, the controversy of a single stroke penalty on the fourth hole – for leaving the ball on the lip of cup for too long – could have rocked him.
He held off the challenge of Cameron John to claim his maiden title, which sent him into The Open Qualifying Series brimming with confidence.
Living the dream
McLeod followed up his Twin Creeks triumph with a fine closing round at the Australian Open to secure the third and the final spot at The Open.
The 24-year-old stormed into contention at the Lakes with a six-under-par round 66, including eight birdies, to finish on a 10-under-par total of 278.
With the likes of three-time European Tour winner Marcus Fraser and Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship runner-up Keita Nakajima unable to catch him, McLeod will now make his first appearance in a major championship at Royal Portrush after finishing in outright third place.
And for the young star, strutting his stuff in Northern Ireland next year will see him live out a childhood dream.
McLeod said: “I’m absolutely stoked right now. To qualify for The Open is unreal.
“It’s going to be special to play in my first major championship, especially in Northern Ireland as I’ve never been there before. I can’t wait to get there.
“I’ve wanted to play in majors like The Open ever since I was a little kid and for this to be my first appearance, it’s going to be so special. I’m nervous already.”
Order of Merit finale
McLeod capped off his stellar year by securing a one-year exemption on the European Tour by claiming the Australasian Tour Order of Merit.
His victory at the NSW Open and a third-place finish at the Australian Open elevated him to top spot with one event left to play.
And a top-20 finish at the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines Resort sealed the deal, after Matthew Millar had threatened to make a late play for the title.
“I've got a few mates going to Europe next year on holiday, so they'll have to venture over to wherever I am,” said McLeod, who finished $19,085 clear of Millar on $255,326.
“They said, can you please play over there, so we can come and watch you. I said, I’ll try and do it. They’re going all over Europe. They go on those Sail Croatia cruises and all those sorts of things.”
His Order of Merit triumph would have earned him exemption to The 148th Open, but the Queenslander had already secured his place at Royal Portrush by coming third at the Australian Open.