Corey Oates bristled when it was suggested he had recently broken two drivers on the golf course.
“No, that’s not right. I’ve only broken one,” said the Brisbane Golf Club member who normally plies his trade smashing through defences while scoring tries for the Brisbane Broncos.
Once, the 192 cm/105kg winger would have accepted the broken-driver accusation as a badge of honour. Not anymore.
Now, aged 23 and with 105 NRL games and four State of Origin appearances behind him, Oates concedes he is far more sensible and responsible than when the days of breaking drivers was ‘a bit of fun’.
“I’m not sure where that information came from, but it’s not true,” he said, palming off the allegation like he does on chargers through opposing forward packs.
“I broke a driver a little while ago, but that was a case of the head flying off as I hit the ball. But I do admit there were times when anger took over and a golf club would get busted.”
The Brisbane Golf Club teaching pro, Reece McRae, has no hesitation is suggesting that with more practise and finesse the big left hander can become a very handy golfer.
“He has the power, but his swing is a little loose,” said McRae who has been helping Oates hone his game.
“At the moment his golf is more muscle than finesse, but he is tempering that side of his game. Corey is time poor because of his football commitments, but when he can dedicate more time to golf he will most certainly improve.”
McRae instanced a recent session on the practise fairway as an example of the power Oates possesses.
“The Queensland State Team members were also on the range and they were hitting their drives over the back fence, but on the bounce,” he said.
“Corey was crushing them over the back fence on the fly. He hits it as far as anyone I have ever seen in the flesh.”
As is the case with most professional sports people, Oates likes to get right away from the discipline of the team environment when given a day off. Fishing and golf are his relaxation targets.
And he finds it difficult to separate them.
“Fishing takes a little longer and is more difficult to organise, but I just love the calmness of sitting in a boat, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, waiting for bite,” he says.
“Golf, on the other hand, is a much more competitive, but I still find it relaxing. And now that I don’t try and hit the cover off the ball every time, I’m finding it more enjoyable.”
Although he plays off a ‘very generous’ handicap of 20, Oates is now newcomer to golf. He had an early introduction to golf through his paternal grandparents, Peter and Colleen Oates.
The two families lived on a property at Baralaba in Central Queensland and Peter and Colleen, as well as Corey’s dad Warren, dabbled in the game at the local nine-hole course.
In fact his grandparents, who now live at Yeppoon, still play regularly.
“Pa plays three times a week at Yeppoon Golf Club, and Nan is a regular there too, although not as often as Pa,” he said.
“They taught me the fundamentals of the game when I was a kid, but I never took it too seriously. It was only when I moved down to the Broncos that I grabbed the opportunity to play reasonably regularly.”
His connection to The Brisbane Golf Club came through his father-in-law, former rugby League legend Gene Miles. The ex-Broncos captain and now chairman of the Queensland Origin selection panel has been a member since 1992.
“We have played together a few times but, because he is still so competitive, I’m always nervous about beating him,” Oates explained.
“Not only am I married to his daughter (Tegan) but as an Origin selector I am mindful of keeping in his good books. But being nice to him hasn’t worked with the Maroons since they dropped me after game one last year.”
While Gene might not be a regular golfing partner, his son Liam and Corey play together often, along with 2018 Origin debutant Andrew McCullough. But not many other current Broncos are keen golfers.
As his life and his footy have matured, so has Oates’ golf game. He concedes that once he believed hitting it hard and long was best – now it’s position rather than distance.
“I have slowed my swing down a lot, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been breaking those drivers anymore,” he joked.
“Now I’m finding that my short game, particularly putting, is where I can gain some shots. I recently bought a new putter which hopefully will help even more.”
But while he loves the course, Oates says the greens at Brisbane are his greatest challenge.
“They are very true if you find the right line,” he said.
“But they are also very fast. Finding the right line as well as the right speed just might take me a little longer to master seeing I’m only out there once a week, at best.” – TONY DURKIN