Late blooming Percy to chase success on PGA Tour Champions | Inside Golf. Australia’s Most-Read Golf Magazine as named by Australian Golfers

Late blooming Percy to chase success on PGA Tour Champions | Inside Golf. Australia’s Most-Read Golf Magazine as named by Australian Golfers

By Peter Owen

CAMERON Percy, who was once putting so poorly he played an entire tournament without looking at the hole, has earned himself a spot on one of the world’s highest profile golf tours.

Percy, who did not play golf until he picked up a set of his grandmother’s old clubs at the age of 15, is one of four Australians who won places on the PGA Tour Champions following a gruelling series of qualifying tournaments late last year.

When he turns 50 in early May, he’ll be lining up against some of the best over 50 golfers on the planet – potentially giving himself the opportunity to earn a lucrative income in the twilight years of his golfing career.

Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn between Percy and New Zealander Steve Alker, a fellow journeyman who rocketed from comparative obscurity on the Korn Ferry Tour to become the best player on the Tour Champions circuit, winning millions of dollars in prizemoney in the process.

Percy’s career, in many respects, duplicates Alker’s. Both golfers tasted early success in their homelands, sought fame and fortune on the US PGA Tour, persevered in the face of consistently disappointing results and then, when virtually written off as failures, suddenly produced their best in their later years.

Cameron Percy, the medalist at the recent Q School is ready to make his presence felt on the PGA Tour Champions in 2024. 

Though his returns have been modest, Percy is a veteran of 220 starts on the PGA Tour, his best finish being a playoff loss to Jonathan Bird at the 2010 Shriners Children’s Open. He’s had 12 top-10 finishes, including three in the 2021-22 season.

The best of his four top-25 finishes in 2023 was a tied 12th at the Honda Classic, but he’d resigned himself to going back to Q School to try to retain his playing privileges before changing his mind and winning medallist honours at the Final Stage of PGA Tour Champions qualifying.

Before that he’d been playing perhaps the best golf of his career.

He had shot 10-under-par 62 to be the first round leader of the PGA Tour’s World Wide Technology Championship on Mexico in November, before firing a seven-under 64 in the second round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship a week later.

Born in Chelsea, on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, Percy played every other sport as a kid – Aussie rules, cricket, tennis, soccer and basketball – but once he’d borrowed his grandmother’s clubs and first played the game as a 15-year-old, he was hooked on golf.

He turned professional in 1998, qualified for the 2003 British Open with his wife Katie on the bag, and joined the second tier Nationwide Tour (subsequently the Tour and now the Korn Ferry Tour) in the US, where he had little success. 

Back in Australia, he won twice on the Von Nida Tour in 2006 – the Queensland Masters and the Queensland PGA.

That led him to return to the US where he rejoined the Nationwide Tour. Eight top-10 finishes in 2009 saw him promoted to the PGA Tour for the first time, but he struggled to hold his spot. He finished 168th on the FedEx Cup points list in 2010, 161st in 2011 and 158th in 2013.

Cameron Percy.

In 2014, he won the Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Tour and finished 15th on the Tour money list to secure his PGA card for the following season.

Over the next six seasons he finished outside the Top 125 on the FedEx Cup list ever year, forfeiting his PGA Tour playing privileges. However he was placed inside the top 150 most of those years, maintaining conditional status on tour.

It was towards the end of 2018 when Percy, sitting 44th on Tour standings and needing a strong finish in the season-ending Tour Championship to regain his PGA Tour card, resorted to putting blind during the tournament.

Frustrated by missing short putts, he stopped looking at the hole as he putted, with immediate success in a pre-tournament practice round. “It’s really hard to trust yourself on the golf course to not even look at the hole but I was feeling so bad that I did it and had nine birdies and shot 64 and putted beautifully,” he said.

When it counted, however, it didn’t work. Percy shot rounds of 71 and 67 to miss the cut – consigning himself to another season on the secondary tour where he continued his struggle to make enough money to sustain his golfing dreams.

Like Steve Alker, it may be that those goals were not meant to be reached until Percy found his way onto the US seniors tour. 

Percy won the Final Stage of PGA Tour Champion Q School by five strokes, leading a group of four Australians onto the tour for the first time. The others to go through were:

MICHAEL WRIGHT, a Queenslander who earned his card by miraculously holing out for a birdie from 110m on the final hole of the final round. Wright, who turns 50 on February 21, was born in Gympie and has been a journeyman on the Australasian Tour, his best result being fifth in the 2013 Australian Open. He has contested just two PGA Tour events, missing the cut both times. He’s never played a PGA Tour Champions event.

STEVE ALLAN, whose best performance as a professional was to win the 2002 Australian Open. The Victorian has been a regular on the PGA Tour, notching nine top-10 finishes, including two second places, from his 214 starts. The best of his 164 Korn Ferry Tour appearances was tied 2nd in Colombia in 2015. The 50-year-old has never played a PGA Tour Champions event. 

DAVID BRANSDON, who shot a final round 67 to grab fifth and final spot. The Melbourne pro has just one top-25 showing from his nine Korn Ferry Tour appearances. A regular on the Japan Golf Tour over the years, he won twice on the Legends Tour last year – at Killara in November and at Beerwah in December. He contested Brooks Koepka’s 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, missing the cut.

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