Hard-hitting Hend answered his calling in Asia | Asian Tour

Hard-hitting Hend answered his calling in Asia

Australian Scott Hend is presently at home in Florida getting ready for the restart of the European Tour and their new ‘UK swing’ later this month. The 10-time Asian Tour winner  – who is slated to make his fourth appearance at US Open in September – is raring to go and, during a time of reflection for many, he spoke to Simon Wilson about his rise to become one of the region’s most prolific winners.

SOUTHPORT-ENGLAND – The 146th Open Championship at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club, July 20-23, 2017. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

When Scott Hend was growing up in Australia and first started to think about making a career out of golf, he says: “I just wanted to play golf for a living. I didn’t think about winning events or how many I could win. I just wanted to play … on golf courses everywhere.”

Perhaps this was just cautious optimism but whatever the strategy he went on to achieve those early ambitions and so much more.

If, back then, he had said: “I want to become one of the most successful players in the history of the Asian Tour, win 10 events there, win on the European Tour and in Australia, play on the PGA Tour, and compete for my country in the Olympics”, well then he would have been a golfing prophet, as all those boxes have also been ticked.

To put it simply, the Australian has been, arguably, the most dominant player on the Asian Tour for the past 13 years and monopolized the Order of Merit list.

In 2016, he became the first Australian to win the Merit title and, impressively, he also finished second on three occasions – in 2013, 2015 and 2019 – and was fourth four times – in 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2017.

Hend was crowned the 2016 Order of Merit champion following the conclusion of Hong Kong Open that year. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

And when he claimed his 10th Asian Tour title in March 2019 – the Maybank Championship in Malaysia – he moved into second place on the Career Money List.

He is still in second place today with earnings of US$5,084,342 while trailblazing Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee – a 13-time winner on the Tour – leads the way with winnings of US$5,744,337.

With an innate ability to hit the golf ball prodigious distances, he has harnessed that raw power to devastating effect and beaten some of the best players in the world.

“When I was taught to play golf I was told to hit it as hard as you can,” says Hend, who represented Australia in the 2016 Rio Olympics along with Marcus Fraser.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 08: Scott Hend of Australia in front of the Olympic rings during a practice round at Olympic Golf Course on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

“I have been fortunate since I started playing golf to be able to create some decent club-head speed. Not everybody can do that. I am lucky, I have been able to do that and stay relatively injury free. But these days I am more like an average length compared to all the young guys.”

The Australian also had an operation in 2012 to remove an overactive thyroid – which he feels helped his game as it calmed his sometimes fiery persona.

For the moment though, the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting restrictions around the globe have put his playing schedule on hold.

“This is easily the longest break I have had in 26 years,” says the 46-year-old Queenslander.

“It has been okay but it has also been frustrating. Not being able to play tournaments for me has been a very frustrating thing. There is nothing we can do about it. Guys get injured for six or seven weeks but four months feels like forever!”

He was at the Qatar Masters in early March but had to withdraw through an injury and decided to head to Bangkok for treatment.

His wife Leanne and teenage twins Aston and McLaren – yes, he is a lover of fast cars – joined him there on March 20 and it was on that day, when they landed, that Asia basically went into lockdown.

They ended up staying there for two months before being able to buy new tickets to get home to Florida, where he is based since 2003.

He said: “We thought we would just get home as opposed to staying in a friend’s apartment”.

CRANS-MONTANA, SWITZERLAND – SEPTEMBER 10: Scott Hend of Australia lines up a putt as his wife/caddie Leanne Hend looks on at the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club on September 10, 2017 in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

“Since the European Tour announced they will return for the UK swing I have been back out the last two-and-a-half weeks solidly hitting balls every day trying to get back into it. Hitting golf balls and playing golf are two completely different things. It is going to be interesting when we actually get on the golf course and play,” added Hend.

He plans to fly to the UK on July 17 for a six-week stretch, where his caddie for the past seven years and former Tour professional Tony Carolan will join him.

They will then fly back to America to prepare for what will be his fourth appearance in the US Open – which is being played at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York from September 17-20.

They are returning to the United States two weeks before the tournament just in case they have to quarantine.

The 120th US Open has allocated one spot to the top finisher of the 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit. With reigning Merit champion Jazz Janewattananond already exempt through his Official World Golf Ranking in March, second-placed Hend will take the coveted spot in the prestigious event where he made his Major debut in 2004.

“It is going to be pretty cool. The last time I played Winged Foot was in the 2006 US Open and Geoff Ogilvy won, I finished T32,” he said.

MAMARONECK, NY – JUNE 17: Scott Hend of Australia hits a shot as his caddie Ray Farnell looks on during the third round of the 2006 US Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club on June 17, 2006 in Mamaroneck, New York. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Exactly when he will be able to return and play on the Asian Tour will be determined over the coming months, when the situation here becomes clearer.

His time spent in Asia has brought rich rewards, instilled a belief in his game and been at the heart of his success as a Tour professional.

Early on in his career, he played on the Canadian Tour for many years – winning the Victoria Open in 2002 – before deciding play on the PGA Tour in 2004, which was when he bought a house in Florida and as he says: “set up shop there”.

But after two seasons, injuries (wrist) and playing poorly saw him lose his playing rights and he turned his attention to the Far East and the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2006.

“I finished second to Ben Leong (at the Qualifying School). My kids were born in December 2006 and then I went straight to Pakistan and finished second and from there on it was ‘happy days’ on the Asian Tour,” says Hend.

His first win came in 2008 at the Pertamina Indonesia Presidents Invitational while his most recent was the 2019 Maybank Championship.

He enjoyed a bumper year in 2013 claiming three titles: in the Chiangmai Golf Classic, the Mercuries Taiwan Masters, and the Macau Open.

HUA HIN – THAILAND – Scott Hend of Australia is sprayed with champagne on the 18th green on Sunday March 13, 2016 during the final round of the True Thailand Classic presented by Chang at Black Mountain Golf Club, Hua Hin, Thailand. A USD$ 1.75 million event co-sanctioned with the European and Asian Tour. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

But he rates his win in the Hong Kong Open in 2014 as his finest as it was jointly-sanctioned with the European Tour and allowed him to earn his card there for the first time. He is also extremely proud to have won an event steeped in history, boasting so many great Australians as past champions.

“I have a lot of friends in Asia, I like the people, I like the food, and the golf courses are quite similar to where I grew up in Australia. The grasses are very similar. It is not like I am in a strange world. Australia is very close to Asia so it is very similar,” says Hend.

The Australian came so close to winning the Omega European Masters in 2016 and 2017 but lost both times in sudden-death play-off, to Swede Alex Noren and then Matthew Fitzpatrick from England.

“The first one wasn’t that bad because Alex holed a fantastic putt to win but that second one took a lot longer for me to get over because I hit a putt where I thought I should have but I just mis-read it. The second loss was extremely disappointing. It took a fair while to get over that and to start playing good golf again.

“I don’t normally let these things bother me but for some reason that one did. I guess because it was two years in a row and I really, really wanted to win there as I love the place and I really want to win on European soil. The second one was a bit more telling with a bit of a sting in the tail.”

But Hend, having been a professional since 1997, been a member of at least five Tours and won 15 tournaments around the world, has experience in abundance and is philosophical about his career.

He says: “This is the profession we are in, it’s quite volatile, there are lot of guys around the world every year trying to get to a certain place there are only a certain amount of spots and you have to be a realist about it. That’s the way it goes, sometimes you can’t get what you want. Then you just have to work hard and you find other ways to make a living and other Tours to play.

“I am very lucky, I am very fortunate to be able to do this. I get to travel all year and see things, so in that regard my job is quite special. I feel very lucky to be good enough at it to do that.”