David Micheluzzi has grown a lot in the last half-year
(Anthony Powter photo)
Fear can be a great motivator.
Once harnessed, it can also be a great tool in finding perspective.
Just ask David Micheluzzi.
The 21-year-old entered the Australian Amateur Championship, presented by Swinging Skirts, as one of the favourites this week based on his recent run of success.
The Victorian has regained his larrikin ways after winning both his home state’s amateur title late last year and then starting up this year with a win at the Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne last week.
It sounds fun.
But the driving force behind that joy was anything but.
“I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the past six months,” Micheluzzi said reflectively before his opening-round 68 at Wanneroo.
“Some bad things happened in July (and) August.
“So I thought twice about what I was doing and just started taking it seriously in October, November and started playing really well and just lit up into these tournaments.”
And that’s when his normally jovial face turned deadly serious.
“Mum (Claudia) was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“I heard that when I was in the (United) States, so it was pretty hard to hear. But she’s all good – they found it early and she didn’t need “chemo”, she’s 100 per cent now and with clear blood tests.
“It scared the s--t out of everyone in our family. We didn’t tell many people. But it hit pretty hard.
“I played Western (Amateur in Illinois), but I just wasn’t all `there’ and just wanted to come home. I wasn’t myself for a couple of weeks until I got home and saw her in hospital and she was OK.
“Once she got the all-clear, I felt like a change in myself and everyone in my family kind of learnt how to deal with things.
“For me, everything’s not all about golf. If you play bad one week, it doesn’t really matter – you can’t take it with you into the next event.
“I used to stress on that, but now if I have a bad week, you just go to the next tournament and I’ve never done that before.”
For the past couple of years, Micheluzzi has arguably played as many good rounds as any of the elite amateurs in Australia, many of whom have gone on to pro ranks.
But, by his own admission, he’s also thrown in one poor round in just about every tournament in which he’s been a contender.
Those days appear gone, not coincidentally alongside his mum’s cancer.
“I always had a 74/75 somewhere. If I’d shot square in those rounds instead, I’d have won six or more tournaments instead of those two (recently).
“But now I’m just more relaxed … better perspective, I guess.
“It’s not that I don’t give a crap about anything, I am just more relaxed in my mind and I’m not getting the nerves I used to get on the first tee because I’m so well prepared now.
“At the end of the day, it’s not going to hurt if I play bad golf.”
So what is the actual difference?
“I think it’s my mind, I’m mentally tougher.
“I think I’ve just grown up,” he said with a broad smile, knowing how it would sound to someone who has seen the larrikin plenty of times.
“Even (Victorian national coach) Marty (Joyce) has said that. I had to do it at some stage, I guess.”
So it’s with a favourite’s tag that Micheluzzi will press on in Perth this week, as opposed to tags he previously carried.
“Favouritism doesn’t really faze me. You can get a lot of hype and it can play against you, but I’m just here to play golf, get my ranking down and go to the next tournament.
“Hopefully it helps me if others think that about me,” he said with clear reflection on the recent crop of top amateurs who’ve recently turned pro.
“It feels weird that I’m the scary guy now.
“It sounds stupid. But I’ve played against Trav (Smyth) and (Harrison) Endycott and thought, `How good are these guys?’.
“But now they’ve turned pro and that’s all back on me. Now people are scared of me – it gives me a lot of confidence.
It’s definitely worth a shot – especially in match play. That one putt you need to make, I feel like I can do that now … like those boys did it to me and that’s why they’re successful.
“I’m learning how to do that and hopefully I can follow in their footsteps.”
Claudia is, doubtless, very proud.