Lonards fire ignited
on PGA Tour
IF you haven't heard of Peter Lonard, it may be because he's just coming off his rookie season ... at 34 years old. Or he's an Australian ... who has played in Asia, and England, Down Under, everywhere. This is a guy who was knocked out of action for nearly a year and a half in the early '90s due to "Ross River Fever." He injured himself by over-wearing his contact lenses.
On second thought, why haven't we heard of this guy?
We're hearing now. Yesterday, he shot a 5-under 65 to put himself at 9-under, and in contention at this Sony Open in Hawaii.
This guy is quite a story. He was even a club pro, for a while, before he got a second chance on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
In 2001, he was third at the Moroccan Open.
The resume alone makes him a character, but then he opens his mouth, and that thick Aussie accent comes out. Saying things like, "I'm going to give it a proper go." And, "The wind is fine. It can blow all it wants."
And, "(I'm) ready to come back and start playing again. Got all the mischievous stuff out of the way and ready to play."
He is, at last. He's in the major leagues now. He's a professional golfer. He's on the PGA Tour.
"I could bumble along and make a living and that was nice," he said of his previous life. "But I didn't have any sort of drive in me to get to the next level."
Lonard was uncomfortable in England, where he found himself last. Just didn't feel right. He'd been at this game for a long time. Years. All these crazy things had happened. So many things had happened. And yet nothing had happened.
In his mid-30s he moved to America, and he went to Q-School, golf's grueling gauntlet of a major-league tryout.
He opened 2002, his rookie campaign, by making 22 straight cuts.
"I think getting my card here did (it)," he said. He had the fire now, and for the first time he concentrated solidly on golf.
"I don't know whether it's the atmosphere of the tournaments or just the grandeur of the whole deal," he said.
For the first time it was first-class. Food. Travel. Training. If you want to be good, it is up to you. And Lonard seized the opportunity.
Last year he made a million dollars.
Yesterday, he made five birdies. And he's in the pack tied for second, along with guys named DiMarco and Els.
One thing he hasn't done yet is close out a tournament, one thing he hasn't done yet is give himself the chance to win in those last nine holes.
But the wind is picking up now, just like it does Down Under.
And Lonard is here now, on this tour, on THE Tour. He talked of having to periodically renew his visa when he first started this adventure. But not now.
"I've got a new visa," he said. "I can stay here for five years now if I want." He paused for just a split second. That Aussie humor, you know. The joke of a guy who's come from nowhere.
"Unless I do something bad, I suppose."
Kalani Simpson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org