IN six short years, Gerringong's Jake Reay has quickly become one of the top up and coming golfers in NSW.
This was no more apparent when the now 21-year-old took out the NSW Golf Club Championship in November.
"The club championship means everything to me - it was my first real personal win besides team events," Reay, whose parents Andy and Kim, as well as nana Lola, were in attendance, said.
"It was a huge honour to even participate in the event at such a big club with enormous history - to make the final and have the opportunity to win the prestigious event was honestly a dream come true.
"Being such a hard event to win, with the amount of talent in attendance, I was setting small goals along the way and hoping I'd have a chance to crack the final - which I was stoked to make.
"Once I did, I said to myself 'you've made it all the way here, you might as well finish it off', which I was fortunate enough to do.
"The biggest thing was having confidence in myself - starting relatively late with not much junior career, the pressure around winning was an irregular feeling.
"Thankfully, everything fell into place that day and it's proved to be a turning point of my career."
As much as he loves the fairways now, the former Kiama High School student wasn't always a keen golfer.
His first introduction came as an eight-year-old when he played a game with his dad Andy, sister (Shelby) and brother (Jamie).
"I never really understood golf when I was younger," he said.
"Especially the first time I played - it was blowing a gale, in the middle of winter and all I could think about was 'get me home, I'm hating this'."
Seven years later, he gave golf another shot.
"I started playing golf quite late compared to most of the competitors I come up against at tournaments," he said.
"Growing up in Gerringong, it's criminal not to dip your toe in various sports especially rugby league, cricket and surfing - from the moment I could walk, my weekends were jam-packed with some kind of sport, as it's in my blood to run around and stay active.
"After giving golf another go at 15, I quickly caught the 'bug' - once I started, I just couldn't stop and haven't looked back since.
"I would be out on the course for hours at a time, no matter the conditions.
"I was addicted and I wouldn't call it a day until mum called me to say dinner was ready."
Current world number one Rory McIlroy's summation 'golf is such a fickle sport, one minute you're on top of the world and the next you're back to reality' really resonates with Reay.
"That quote is why I love and hate golf at the same time," he said.
"I think seeking perfection and striving to hit every shot sweet is why many players keep coming back to play.
"For me, the process of getting better is why I love the sport - it's an individual sport where it's just you verse the golf course.
"I love the creativity and imagination the game allows, as there are no laws making you play the game a certain way.
"You're constantly faced with different challenges, with every shot and the process of working out how best to execute the shot is exciting.
"Though there are recommended ways to play a hole, it doesn't necessarily mean it has to be done like that - there are 50 different ways you can get from point A to point B and that is why the game is loved and hated by myself and 99 per cent of the golfing community."
Reay, whose handicap has steadily improved to be plus two, credits his family and coach for getting him to where he is today.
"One thing about golf, although it is an individual sport, it is far from that off the course, as there's plenty of individuals who have impacted my journey so far - none more than my dad, who's my biggest supporter," Reay, who's also played for Kiama during his career, said.
"When I first started, I was the only junior around, so I learnt all the basics from my dad and his mates during our competitions.
"From there, Dad, who really started his love for the game when I did, and I would learn aspects of the game together - there's now no shortage of golf talk at home.
"My brother Jamie came into the game a couple of years after myself, so it was a family affair at Gerringong Golf Club.
"My brother and I are really close - to play the game with him is awesome, as our rivalry feeds off one another.
"Another significant figure is my coach Gary Edwin - I can't give him enough praise to him and his team up at the Gold Coast, who have helped take my game to the next level.
"He is a world-renowned coach (working with the likes of Rod Pampling, Peter Senior and Rebecca Artis) that has many stories and a wealth of knowledge and experience - which goes a long way in this sport.
"It would be pretty easy for high ranked coaches to turn down another aspiring junior like myself but I was welcomed with open arms and they are eager to see how I perform in my competitions, regardless if it's a good or bad one."
All this led to his breakthrough win during the 36-hole matchplay tournament.
"The big thing going into that day [at the NSW Golf Club] was my confidence - I was on a big high from knocking off top-ranked players in the previous weeks," he said.
"I didn't put pressure on myself to win at all costs, rather just go out there and play my best, which is exactly what happened.
"I was able to hold a two-shot lead going into the halfway mark, thanks to solid all-round play - which I aimed to continue.
"The afternoon round is when it started to heat up, members from the club were coming out to watch and it went from 10 people watching in the morning to a solid 70 people following - that was my first taste of a gallery following.
"Fortunately my putter was being kind and the ball was able to find its home most of the time.
"As the saying goes 'drive for show, putt for dough', which I can confirm was the case on the day.
"I managed to take the victory six and five and I remember the moment when I won - I looked up at the hill where everyone was watching from and it quickly sunk in what I had just accomplished.
"It was also special to share that moment with Dad, who was my caddy for the day - we have ticked off the first win now and we are hoping to achieve similar success in the near future."
Reay, who ranks the New South Wales Golf Club as his second favourite course to play on behind Gerringong, hopes this victory acts as a springboard to future success.
"This win gives me the confidence that I can compete in any tournament I enter," he said.
"It also showed me the importance of getting the preparation right - if my focus and lead-up work is right, it'll put me in the best position to play to my capabilities and end up on top, which is what I always strive to do."
Unfortunately for Reay, a former Gerringong club champion, and other golfers around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily derailed his career ascendancy.
"It certainly is a crazy time at the moment - it's not the ideal situation but we have been fortunate enough to be able to keep playing socially and practice, in a competitive environment, where we can," Reay, who has a number of top 10 finishes in Vardon events across NSW, said.
"On the other hand, all tournaments have been put on hold which has defiantly impacted us golfers because all we want to do is get out there and compete - it's definitely taken its toll.
"Personally, I've been keeping busy by rearranging my training schedule to fit in the government guidelines - trying to keep it all as normal as possible.
"I've also set up a net in the backyard for when the course is closed, to ensure I can still get my reps in - as well as doing a lot more running to keep up my cardio fitness.
"All my coaching and physio are operated online, so I'm still able to get what I need just in a different way then what I'm used to.
"It's certainly the perfect time to improve any areas of my game that needed work.
"In saying that, the hardest aspect is not knowing when everything will go back to normal - we are all training hard at the moment to stay on top but no one knows when the next competition will be."
Despite the unknown, amateur Reay, who was scheduled to play in South Australia in the coming weeks, hasn't let it affect his long-term goals.
"When we can return to the course, I'll be throwing myself in any tournaments I can, to test my skills against the top players and courses," he said.
"I hope to do a bit of travelling in the near future around Australia then branch off overseas - for now, the goal is to play in the national ranked events held by Golf Australia and also play the Vardon events across NSW.
"I'm also part of the NSW Golf Club pennant team which this year will be striving for an unprecedented three titles in a row.
"Further down the line, my biggest goal and dream is to play on the main stage in the US on the PGA tour - it's certainly the pinnacle of our sport and watching it every on television it would be cool for my parents to be witness Reay climbing the leaderboard instead of McIlroy.
"It's a long hard process to get there but I think if I focus on my small goals they will all add up to the big one.
"My goal as an amateur is to gain as much experience as I can, hoping to secure victories along the way, so when the time is right I can be successful as a professional."