by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia
Jake McLeod's partners are going to Europe next year for a vacation of their lives; After a dramatic final round of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on Sunday, the 24-year-old Queenslander can now join them.
It will be a working holiday for McLeod after he has obtained a one-year exemption for the European Tour by winning the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour or Australasia Order of Merit, his rewards also include entry to two World Golf Championship events
Only a month ago, McLeod had not paid any attention to his position on the Order of Merit, but a victory over the AV Jennings NSW Open and third place at the Emirates Australian Open only earned $ 156,375 and raised him to the top spot with still only one event about playing.
Weekend rounds of 75-74 opened the door for Canberra veteran Matthew Millar to make a late play for the title, but Millar's draw for the third and McLeod's top-20 finish were just enough for the graduate Hills International to claim the card at one of the world's richest journeys.
Which in turn amounts to a change of plans for his friends.
"I have a few friends going to Europe next year, so they will have to switch to wherever I am," said McLeod, who unleashed $ 19,085 from Millar at $ 255,326 while Daniel Nisbet stayed in third place.
"She said, can you please play there so we can come and see, I said, I will try.
"They go all over Europe, they go on those Sail Croatia cruises and all those kinds of things
"I have a mate in Aberdeen, he came to see Dunhill, so I'm sure he will come to a few events and one of my good friends, Andrew Joyce, already lives in the UK.
"He has been stoked up a lot, he has already sent me a message so that he can come to a few events next year."
It was fitting for Cameron Smith to further consolidate his world-wave status with a second consecutive Joe Kirkwood Cup that McLeod, a former teammate of Smith's Queensland Boys, would take a big step forward.
In four weeks time McLeod rises from 437th in the world to just outside the top 100 and says that the rapid ascent of Smith was an inspiration
"It was great to see him play in recent years," said McLeod, who won the Boys Interstate Series in 2013 alongside the Smith.
"My game is still not there, but I think it's pretty close.
"If you see such guys that you've played before, I think this gives me the conviction that I can do it too.
"You just need the opportunities and now I have the chances, hopefully I can achieve good results there."
After an exciting final round and the ultimate victory over Leishman after two shots, Smith saved his widest grin for McLeod's performance.
"That's great," Smith said about McLeod's Order of Merit triumph.
"I grew up with Jakey, played with Jakey in many state teams, practiced endless hours when we were 15, 16, 17 years old
"It is good to see that he is doing really well, and I have always seen him as a very good player
"He stayed with what he knows and he pulls it out, which is good for him."