ILLAWARRA golfer Grahame Stinson has earned an invite to the NSW Open after claiming the links Shell Cove Open in a three-hole playoff on Monday.
Stinson claimed the NSW Open regional qualifying event by two shots, birdying the third playoff hole, from recent University of Oklahoma graduate Jackson Bugdalski.
It sees him earn invites to the $120,000 NSW Senior Open at Thurgoona later this month, as well as the NSW Open at Twin Creeks starting November 28.
"It was nerve-wracking, I haven't been in that predicament for 20 years, I haven't played competitive golf," Stinson said.
"On the last I hit a good drive and had a horrible line in the rough there. I just had to commit to it and hit it hard and hit a good shot. It stayed on the top of the green there and made me work hard.
"I knew I was going all right after about nine or 10 holes and then I started to get a little tight but just held it together, played with a little fade and got the job done.
"I was more nervous out through the course of the tournament proper, then I got on the first I thought 'I've got nothing to lose now'."
Stinson said he surprised himself with a run of recent injuries hampering form heading into the event.
"If you'd seen me playing up until [Sunday] I was hitting it terrible," he said.
"I had a hernia operation, I came back from that 9-10 weeks ago then I had a back injury and I'm still suffering with that. I haven't been getting any turn but I just came out and played with little power fades and hitting down the middle.
"I probably hit more fairways doing that than trying to hit a draw and keep up with this young brigade. You see the young guys hit it now and, I'm not out of my league, but they just hit it a mile it's ridiculous."
It was a dramatic victory for a mid-week golfer, with shifts in the mines keeping him off the course on weekends. He's now likely to use an over 50's exemption and turn professional.
"I think I will. I went to the player's school two years ago down at Sandhurst and I came fourth, the top three got in," he said.
"I went through the player's school when I was 19 or 20 but you needed a lot of money to do it and I couldn't rely on mum and dad to support me.
"I tried it for 12 months and gave it away, worked in pro shops, now I work in the mines. I play Tuesday out here at the Links, I normally play Thursday's at the Grange and that's it.
"I work weekends so I'm just a mid-week member but I love golf, I'm enjoying it now more than ever because if it happens it happens, if it doesn't it doesn't.
"It's not about making money, it's about going out and playing in these tournaments. I love golf so I'd like to get out there and play in these senior pro-ams."