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Brown in the pink as new season beckons

Anthony BrownHONG KONG, January 14 - After a career-best joint runner-up finish at the season-ending Australian PGA Championship in Coolum last month, Anthony Brown is hoping for a breakthrough victory on OneAsia in 2013.

Brown finished the A$1.25 million (U.S. $1.32 million) tournament, presented by Coca-Cola, at 12 under par -- four shots behind winner Daniel Popovic -- and in winning over U.S. $111,000 for the effort he soared into the top ten on the Order of Merit.

Equally importantly, the 30-year-old avoided the need to go to Q-School to earn his card for this season and guaranteed he will get a start in every event on the 2013 calendar, including the European Tour co-sanctioned Volvo China Open in May.

Until the Australian PGA Championship, however, by his own admission Brown was having a season he would sooner rather have forgotten.

"The year had definitely been a bit light on performance but I'm not sure I could pinpoint why," he said.

"You try your hardest, so it isn't through lack of effort. I worked harder than I ever had before and really stuck to the programme."

Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Brown grew up about an hour and-a-half east of the city with his two younger sisters.

"It's a bit out of town," he said, "but we lived next to Yallourn Golf Club so there was plenty of opportunity to play."

He was introduced to the game by his father -- still a handy single-digit player at 60 -- while a local professional also took him under his wing and honed a natural talent that also enjoyed playing cricket and Australian Rules Football.

"Then I got into the Victorian Institute of Sport when I was 17 and started working with Denis McDade and Dale Lynch," said Brown.

"There was a lot of very good Australian talent around at that time, so I got to know a lot of the guys that we play with every week on tour."

Frustratingly, Brown watched many of those players perform far better than him despite his best efforts and he admits to tinkering with his game too much in a bid to getting results.

"It isn't something I do a lot, but maybe it was something that I had started doing," he said.

"So I decided it was time to go back to keeping things simpler: Don't sweat the small stuff, focus on the strong parts on your game and slowly get the confidence back."

Having made a few coach changes over the years, Brown started working with Melbourne-based American Paul Buchanan in the middle of 2012 and the move has paid off.

"It has been good and my game feels pretty good," said Brown. "I am starting to see some results."

Until the Coolum event, Brown had made just two cuts and earned only U.S. $17,000 in 2012 and was destined for a trip to Q-School on both OneAsia and the PGA Tour of Australasia.

"My goal was to finish top ten on the money list for OneAsia," said Brown, whose previous best result on the tour came in 2010 when he was joint third behind winner Michael Hendry at the Indonesian Open.

With that goal seemingly a pipe dream, Brown opened the Australian PGA Championship with a modest one-over 73 before booking his weekend spot with a more attention-grabbing second-round 68.

But it was in the third round that Brown finally showed the form he had been searching for all year -- and his entire career -- with a blistering 64 that matched the tournament-best effort of Popovic and meant he'd be in the final group on Sunday.

"I guess I didn’t really have any expectations at the start of the day but whenever you shoot 64 in any tournament -- let alone the Aussie PGA -- you’ll take it," he said.

Asked what made the difference then, Brown couldn't quite pinpoint it.

"I wish I knew as I would have done it sooner," he said. "Quite often you feel like you have done everything right and for some reason it doesn’t happen and then of late things have just started to turn around and you know I just feel a lot better out on the course overall."

A final round 71 saw Brown share second place with Rod Pampling and meant he could take Christmas and New Year off to go fishing with his son Hudson, who turns three this year.

"I love to fish. I do a lot of fly fishing back home and we've had so much rain that the rivers are stuffed," he said.

Despite the fantastic end to the year, Brown is keeping realistic about what 2013 may hold.

"Golf is the kind of game where despite your best efforts you, walk away scratching your head," he said.

OneAsia's 2013 season tees off with the Thailand Open on March 14.