Robbed of three years of his career by COVID-19 lockdowns and resorting to working as a greenkeeper to stay afloat, Haydn Barron's lofty perch on the Australian Open leaderboard means more than most.
The 26-year-old backed up an impressive opening round with a two-under-par 68 at Victoria Golf Club on Friday to sit three shots behind co-leaders Adam Scott and David Micheluzzi.
If he holds that position come Sunday afternoon, the young West Australian will collect a cheque for more than $80,000 - a massive boost to his coffers after being forced to delay his 2019 plans to turn professional.
While golfers at the top collect millions, rising stars like Barron and the sport's battlers faced lean times with many tournaments around the nation - including the 2020 and 2021 Australian Opens - cancelled during the pandemic and golf banned altogether in Victoria.
"I planned to turn pro at the end of 2019, just before everything went crazy and then I was stuck at home for that period of time and I took up green-keeping," Barron told reporters.
Barron turned professional in January and after missing two cuts from his previous four events this summer, he only scraped into the Open field courtesy of a tie for 12th at last month's Queensland PGA Championship.
He didn't make the weekend action at last week's Australian PGA so was thrilled to be teeing up this Saturday.
"It feels awesome - obviously a little bit of a different feeling after last week when I missed the cut by a couple," Barron said.
"But I love these events, love the crowds and the hype, having the ropes out there and a few fans.
"I'm really excited for tomorrow and can't wait."
Barron said he was trying to return to his amateur mentality of playing "hole by hole" rather than focusing on the cut and picking up a pay cheque.
"I've been working with a breath-work guy who's really helped find my mental side and being able to switch out of the nervous feeling and trying to control the nervous system a bit more," said the world No.1214.
"That's been probably the thing that's helped me the most the last month - it's pretty new with him, but it's going good, so I'm enjoying it."