How a former US Open champion secured four iconic Australian courses to engage in innovative new event | Golf News and Tour Information
It is an excellent idea. An obvious idea. And now it’s going to happen. Led by the formidable duo of 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and former European Tour player Mike Clayton, the inaugural Sandbelt Invitational will take place from December 20-23. Four of Melbourne’s world-famous courses – Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Peninsula Kingswood and Yarra Yarra – will each host a round in a 72-hole event with a mix of 60 professional and amateur men and women, a relatively low- key start to what the two hope to become one of Australia’s biggest tournaments.
The potential is obvious, the philosophical novel in a world generally driven solely by financial matters. Yes, Ogilvy’s eponymous foundation is offering a $ 50,000 (Australian) scholarship and other sponsors will hopefully be in place by December. But for now the motivation is more altruistic than economic.
“Clayts takes credit for the idea,” Ogilvy told Golf Digest. “A few months ago we heard that the Australian Open would probably not take place [the men’s and women’s events were officially cancelled last week for the second year due to the pandemic], how Mike decided we had to have something for him. We’ve been doing a few things over the past few months, 18-hole one-day events that have given promising youngsters the chance to play competitive golf. So he called a few clubs in Melbourne to see if we could extend that to a four day contract. “
It didn’t take long. Ogilvy describes the reaction as “unbelievable”. Royal Melbourne was right there. Peninsula said yes within 30 seconds. Yarra Yarra and Kingston Heath also followed quickly.
“Once the clubs were involved, we sat down and thought about the pitch,” Ogilvy said. “The actual breakdown is not too clear at this time due to COVID travel restrictions, so we’ll have to see how that plays out. But we will have the best peloton possible, men and women, professionals and amateurs.
This concept is also an extension of what the Ogilvy / Clayton team did with what they call “the game,” a series of 18-hole one-day events with men and women competing against each other. against others designed to provide promising young Australians with competitive opportunities in these difficult times.
“I just want to make it clear that the Sandbelt Invitational is not going to be like a ‘normal’ event,” said Clayton, who, to the amusement of all who know him, will be “tournament director.” “Not yet anyway. It won’t be on TV. There won’t be too many spectators. There won’t be closed fairways or scoreboards. It’s about getting the best players. that we may find competing with each other. But the real stars of the show will be the courses. This is not an event built around star names, which has been the norm here for a few years.
Disappointingly, it seems unlikely that the PGA Tour’s main Australians – Marc Leishman, Cam Smith and Adam Scott – will be able to take the start this year. But the reaction from Ogilvy and Clayton’s professional colleagues has been, as one would expect, unanimously positive.
“What a pleasure it will be, undeniably one of the best golf courses in the world,” former Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts (wife of Australia) said in a tweet.
Japanese Tour player Matt Griffin was even more enthusiastic.
“Since the heyday of the 1990s, Australian golf has focused on who’s not here rather than who is,” said the Melburnian native. “This announcement is the perfect example that maybe it is time to celebrate who is here rather than who is not. We’ve got a bunch of private talent from major tournaments for the past 24 months, desperate to prove themselves. If you forget the names, the product is basically the same and maybe even better, as the Vic Open has proven.
Speaking of which, the Sandbelt Invitational will offer exemptions to both the Vic Open (a mixed European Tour and LPGA sanctioned event) and, for men, the Australian PGA Championship. Already, legitimacy is growing.
“I really hope this will expand each year to the point where it becomes a really big and important event,” says Clayton, one of the most learned and thoughtful golf commentators on all things golfing. ‘architecture. “But we don’t need a huge purse at this point. It only raises expectations, which we cannot meet due to all the travel restrictions in place. Players from Western Australia, for example, cannot come to Melbourne at this time. So the money doesn’t really matter.
“People have criticized Golf Australia for canceling the Australian Open. But our event is different. We are not comparing apples to apples. We don’t have to deal with sponsors or television. We have no expectations. All we are trying to do this year is have an “amateur” tournament with good players on great courses. And we’ll see how it goes.