Quite often when Jared Pender used to fill out his scorecards in the make-or-break world of professional golf mostly in Australia, it wasn't easy to park thoughts of doing the sums on his daily budgetary requirements on the road.

"Credit card's not looking so good so, okay, where am I sleeping next week?," reflects Pender, who found life on the road taxing as the mind wandered on myriad external factors.

"It was pretty hard because you're living on the credit card with no steady income," he says but stresses he came out of it without straying too far from the flags denoting the turbulent fiscal red zone.

The 33-year-old, who is the resident professional at Te Puke Golf Club, is competing at the inaugural Duke of Gloucester Pro-Am at Napier Golf Club on Monday to help counterpart Andrew Henare raise funds for the club's academy juniors.


Most times he bunked out at the sleep-out of his parents, Cheryll and Jim Pender, or ended up flatting with mates on the road "for really, really cheap rent".

"You just can't do it otherwise," he says, revealing airfares, hire cars, accommodation and food costs add to the pressure of nailing a top-10 finish in tourneys.

Pender is coming off winning the City Pharmacy Takapuna Pro-am in Auckland by four shots (63, 64) on Wednesday and fifth at Waitemata for "some petrol money".

But the bloke who called it quits on the professional tour circuit abroad two years ago sees the irony on how life has changed dramatically for the better with stability in the domestic front.

"I'm engaged now and we have a 5-week-old newborn and I have a fulltime job," he says of baby Charlie and fiancée Chloe.

"I did put a lot of pressure on myself," he says, plying his trade mostly in Australia in tier-one events.

"That extra pressure you put on yourself, going into a golf tournament, you don't need."
Security is better now and the family network of support on the road is unquantifible.

"Unless someone comes to me with an open cheque book I'm done," he says, when asked if he would ever go back on a well-trodden path.

"It wasn't easy. I hate to say it but when you don't have money, funding or help like that it makes it very difficult.

"You never know how long it's going to last for because you can only have credit card maxed to the limit for only a certain amount of time, you know."

EZGO Golf and Titleist sponsorship helped Pender during his professional campaign but it was never easy, demanding hard yards from him as a player.

"But I think I 'm pretty lucky with my golf game because I don't have to put in as much hard work as most other players do so probably having more settled now with off-field stuff has been better for me."

Was that in any way an issue in hindsight for Pender who may have banked on his innate abilities too much?

Possibly but he had to earn his keep, finding time to do some mucking out at his horse racing trainer father's stable with short practising stints in between.

"The only time off I had was when I was travelling and playing. It wasn't like I could go to the gym now or visit the physio," he says, attending to "management" matters at nights.

"You know, you never stop learning. I'm still learning now."

Pender's decision to give up his childhood dreams wasn't as easy as switching jobs in the daily humdrum of playing the game of life.

"It was quite gut wrenching, I guess, because it was the only thing I lived for."

In some respects, at the risk of sounding like he's embellishing, it was akin to deciding to amputate a few digits on his torso.

"You're not thinking about playing or travelling or anything now.

"When I was playing I was always on the plane and now if I get on the plane I get all excited," he says with a laugh.

Breaking course records, even as an amateur, was a regular occurrence for Pender who went on as an amateur to represent his country at the world championship Eisenhower Trophy.

He was in the most-talked about class of elite amateurs, such as Ricki Fowler and Danny Lee.

"Knowing where Dan's got to now, obviously, the doors opened for different people and I know how they played then.

"You only need one little opening and you're away laughing."

Pender doesn't think the stars aligned with the moon and sun for him but, while unsure on the exact figures, he suspects a multi-million-dollar cheque from Callaway teed up Lee once he turned professional.

"It's a lot better nowadays but that was only nine years ago."

Because it came naturally he felt he didn't need to work as hard as others.

Ironically Pender was anything but a golfer growing up.

He played rugby union and loved his cricket although he got into tennis and swimming.

It wasn't until he was 10 that he picked up a golf club before whittling down his handicap to five within three years.

"It was pretty easy to say it then that golf was my sport and all the others [codes] just went away."

Pender believes with the number of quality golf courses in the country there aren't enough tourneys although he hastens to add it's not a cheap shot at New Zealand Golf which does a splendid job.

"For example, I've just played a two-dayer and a one-dayer in Auckland but looking at the courses here there could have been another two-dayer or one-dayer so that would have doubled the prize money straight away."

After finishing with the Napier club tourney, the contingent will travel to Paraparaumu GC.

"Eketahuna can hold a tournament so you look at how big is Eketahuna and compare it with the bigger cities."

Club professionals like he and Henare often have to take the initiative to organise even amateur tourneys with a field of about 120.

The pair coach juniors but Pender says it's no longer a case of just rugby or cricket beckoning youngsters.

"You have gymnastics, futsal, soccer and, you know, you name it, swimming and tennis.

"The kids are always doing sport, which is great, but can they play golf?"

Organising nine or even six-hole competitions at 6pm makes sense to cater for time-poor people, he says echoing the sentiments of Sir Bob Charles who is the special guest at the pro-am here on Monday.

Youngsters are shooting memorable scores while Pender says he's doing what he can to give something back to the code.

"It's the next phase in my life. I still enjoy golf and I probably enjoy it more now with consistent income coming in and I'm staying at home."

He champions the 18-hole Te Puke course, which now boasts two greenkeepers.

"It's only 10 minutes from Mt Maunganui and the quality is best by miles," he says.
"Without sounding biased, it's probably one of the best golf courses around just the way the holes are - no holes are the same."

It lures visiting golfers from places such as Royal Auckland and Royal Wellington, who often rave about it.

"It is a hidden gem on the motorway."