Breanna Gill knows a win on Sunday at the Australian Women’s Classic at Bonville Golf Resort might be as good as it gets.
In a season in which she has finished top six in four tournaments to date – including the last three in succession – Gill (71) will start the final round just one shot back of Wales’ Lydia Hall (69) and level with Stephanie Bunque (73) and Kiwi Wenyung Keh (71).
Currently fourth on the WPGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit, a win would move Gill past Grace Kim, Sarah Jane Smith and Min A Yoon into top spot, but it won’t change her life in the same way it could have done three years ago.
At the 2020 Australian Women’s Classic at Bonville – a co-sanctioned event with the Ladies European Tour – Gill’s tie for 11th was part of a platform built to take her game to the international stage.
However, a week after finishing tied for 19th at the LET-sanctioned Women’s NSW Open in Dubbo, Gill’s world came to a grinding halt.
As it did for almost every person on the planet.
The outbreak of COVID-19 brought international travel and golf tournaments to a standstill, and Gill was among the many Australian golfers caught in the crossfire.
Blake Collyer began working at Apples and Sage Organics in Melbourne; Dale Brandt-Richards started driving diesel fuel all around Sydney before taking a job as a fresh produce export manager at the fruit markets; Callan O’Reilly turned in his sticks to become a real estate agent in Newcastle.
Gill had always supplemented her golf career with full-time work in local government but that outlet of golf was suddenly stripped away, and for more than two years looked like it may never return.
“It just felt like someone was stepping on my neck for two-and-a-half years and I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees there for a little while,” Gill explained after a one-under 71 on Saturday to be three-under through 36 holes.
“I knew I still had plenty of game but it was buried there for a couple of years and took me a little while to work my way out of it.”
Rather than plotting invites to professional tournaments throughout Europe, Gill was cooped up in Sydney unable to play or practise.
There were days she thought it was over, which makes her run of form this season all the more enjoyable.
After starting the season with a tie for sixth at the Melbourne International at Latrobe Golf Club, Gill was top 20 at TPS Murray River, the Vic Open and TPS Sydney. She skipped TPS Hunter Valley for a week behind the desk and was then tied for third at the Moss Vale Pro-Am, tied for fourth at Wagga Wagga and was outright fourth at last week’s Women’s NSW Open at Tuncurry.
Which brings her back to Bonville, her self-proclaimed favourite course, but with a very different mindset to that of three years ago.
She knows what comes next – back to her job as a Recreation and Leisure Projects Officer
for Willoughby Shire Council in Sydney – and that is just fine by her.
“Not now,” Gill said when asked whether she still harboured aspirations to play overseas.
“I’m very comfortable with where things are at now. At my age, at 42, I just don’t see the financial benefit to try and have a go. You spend a season overseas and it will run you six figures.
“I’ve worked hard to build out of COVID financially. I’ve picked up another passion outside of golf which is investing, so I’m quite keen to see what’s going on today on the market.
“I’m quite happy to stay home, play the Aussie events and support some of the younger girls coming through.
“I just want to have a really nice week here and finish the season strong.
“And then it’s back to the desk Monday morning.”
But there is still work to be done at Bonville.
Slightly slower green speeds have been to her liking the first two days, she enjoys the shot shapes and width available off the tee and knows that by minimising bogeys – she has just three through two rounds – a win is within reach.
Given what she has been through the past three years, that would be reward enough.
“It was a long two years to try and fight our way through. It was really difficult,” Gill admitted.
“We had a lockdown the following year as well and it just seemed like things weren’t going to end.
“As soon as I got here this week I had good vibes.
“I’m really proud of how I’ve played given all of those circumstances.”