When the Stars Align – Australian Golf Digest
The relaunch of the local circuit after two COVID-ravaged summers will have tournament-hungry fans salivating.
[ getty images: David Cannon, Jared C. Tilton]
You won’t have to wait until nightfall to see the stars this summer. After two years of non-existence or compromised logistics, our Open and PGA National Championships are back, and so are the top players.
The announcements have continued to follow one another in recent weeks and months. The first came Lucas Herbert, who simultaneously committed to the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland (November 24-27) and the ISPS Handa Australian Open at twin venues Victoria and Kingston Heath (1- December 4).
“I can’t wait to get home,” Herbert said in a sentiment echoed by many overseas-based Australian tourism pros. “I have been fortunate enough to spend most of the season in the United States and I certainly miss being at home in Australia with my family and friends. I also really enjoy playing golf in Australia and I am also looking forward to doing this.
Next up was Min Woo Lee, who said he will be on the court for the PGA of Australia, which returns as a co-sanctioned entity with the DP World Tour. In an odd measure of the calendar, the PGA will be played twice in 2022, as the edition won by Jed Morgan in such emphatic style took place in January but is considered in the record books as the 2021 championship. The next PGA will be the 2022 version.
“I can’t wait to play in the PGA,” Lee said. “It was so good to have big tournament golf in Australia earlier this year with the crowds and the atmosphere at Royal Queensland in January, and I tend to feed off that. It’s an event that I would love to win, being one of the flagship tournaments on the Australasian Tour and one I’ve followed for a long, long time.
“It’s also exciting to see the event supported by the DP World Tour again. I’m sure it will attract other players as it provides opportunities there. I’m a fan of the Royal Queensland setup, I think it fits my eyes, and I hope and expect to play well there this year.
Hannah Green became the first high-profile woman to step on board, her enthusiasm to commit to the Australian Open stemming from the common grounds model.
“When I heard the Men’s and Women’s Opens were first coming together, I knew I wanted to be there,” the 2019 Women’s PGA Champion said. “We experimented with that kind of concept, with men and women playing together on the same courses at the same time, at Vic Open and Webex Players Series events, and to have it put together for the first time at a National Open is going to be something special .
Marc Leishman was the next to sign up, adding both the Australian PGA and the Australian Open to his schedule. “My family and I can’t wait to get back to Australia and I can’t wait to win in front of a home crowd,” he said. “We haven’t been back to Australia to compete for a while now and I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Australian crowd again. I’ve always had good support in Queensland and I’m looking forward to the energy of the crowd at the Australian PGA Championship.
“The last time I played in Australia was at the Presidents Cup 2019 and the crowd in Melbourne were amazing. It will be great to experience a similar atmosphere in Victoria and I can’t wait to see some familiar faces come from my home town of Warrnambool.
Cameron Smith soon followed, announcing his return to compete in Australia’s two main tournaments on the calendar. “I’ve had an amazing year and coming home to play tournaments is the icing on the cake,” Smith said. “I’m so excited to see my friends and family again. Some of them I haven’t seen in years and once on the golf course I have my eye out for more trophies.
“Winning the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship in 2017 and 2018 was awesome, so playing in Queensland again, wearing my brown shirt on Sunday around Royal Queensland, will be very special.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Open will also be Smith’s first time playing in Melbourne since the 2019 Presidents Cup, which he called “one of the best experiences I’ve had in golf”.
“The crowds were amazing that week and I can’t wait to get a similar atmosphere back to Victoria and Kingston Heath,” he said.
In a deft move, Ashleigh Buhai was simultaneously revealed as a confirmed starter for the women’s champ, giving the first-ever concurrent Australian Open both defending Open champions.
“I love coming to Australia and playing some of the best golf courses in the world,” Buhai said. “I played Victoria Golf Club in the Australian Open for Women in 2014 and although I missed the cut I know it’s a fantastic venue and Melbourne is a fantastic venue. If I may adding another trophy to my collection would be a great way to end an already very special year.
Three in one
Victoria and Kingston Heath Golf Clubs will rightly be in the spotlight at the Australian Open, with the former seeing the Men’s National Championship for the first time in two decades and the latter playing a role as co-hosts after missing out on schedule in 2020 due to the cancellation of the Open that year. Ranked ninth and second, respectively, in the country by Australian Golf Digest, showcasing the two locations on Melbourne’s sandbelt will make for an unforgettable and historic week. Still, side-by-side men’s and women’s championships will give the tournament added consistency. Of course, it’s actually a three-in-one week with the Australian All Ability Championship (AAAC) also taking place, providing a trio of trophies for the field.
The eyes of the golf world will be on Melbourne to witness the Triple Opens. The logistics behind interweaving multiple courts will give tournament organizers more headaches than usual leading up to and during championship week, but there’s a lot of know-how in that department already. The Vic Open doubles have been a local staple for a decade now, while the Australian twin PGA and WPGA Championships last January provided more insight into how to juggle two areas. The challenge on this occasion will be to manage the logistics on two separate sites, and not just on two contiguous routes. However, well organized, multi-sport events are a model not only for the future of our national championship, but for more tournaments around the world.
Meanwhile, the AAAC is gaining momentum with each staging. Played over 54 holes at the same time as the Australian Open, it is open to the top 12 players in the world ranking of disabled golfers. The first editions were very popular, showcasing the exceptional talents of a large number of disabled golfers while proving the value of the open week championship.
Christian Hamilton, National Inclusion Manager for Golf Australia, says the impact of the AAAC has increased attendance nationally, but has also had a huge impact on the growth of premier events for people with disabilities in the whole world.
“We’ve had tremendous growth with over 2,000 players now on the world rankings or now holding a pass,” Hamilton said. “With the development of the G4D Tour, there are now eight championships for golfers with disabilities played on the DP World Tour and it was great to see the USGA host its first national championship earlier in the year.
“The AAAC has moved beyond showcasing talent and raising awareness to one who demonstrates a truly global high performance pathway in sport for people with disabilities.”
Demonstrating global championship connectivity, grassroots participation and developing organizational capacity through programs such as PGA All-Ability Coach Accreditation have gone a long way in supporting the future growth and potential of golf. to become a Paralympic sport in 2028. This program, now in its seventh year, has trained more than 215 PGA professionals and 100 community instructors across the country, providing people with disabilities a clear path to either get back into the game or to pick it up for the first time.
No two-card trick
Lest anyone think this “Summer of Golf” is just a focal fortnight disguised as something longer, we remind you that the six-month period from October to early April is stacked with no less than 16 official tournaments.
Starting with the PGA of Western Australia in remote Kalgoorlie on October 13, local male professionals will embark on an odyssey that will span at least four states and two countries.
Apart from the Australian Open and PGA, there are various State and PGA Opens, as well as a series of The Players Series events starting in late January. The New Zealand Open and PGA then return before a dedicated and yet to be finalized closing event. It harkens back to when the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule was full enough to warrant hosting a Tour Championship to punctuate each season.
On the women’s side, the exact schedule for several WPGA Tour of Australasia tournaments is yet to be confirmed, but that schedule should reflect previous summers. Highlighted by the WPGA Championship and the Australian Women’s Open, the calendar also includes events such as the WPGA Melbourne International at Latrobe Golf Club, the Australian Women’s Classic at Bonville Golf Resort and the innovative Athena event. Sprinkle in four TPS tournaments and you have a steady diet of mixing between our leading male and female professionals.
|October 10-16, 2022||CKB WA PGA, presented by TX Civil & Logistics||Kalgoorlie Golf Club||$200,000|
|October 17-23, 2022||Open Washington||Western Australia Golf Club||$162,500|
|November 7-13, 2022||VIC PGA||Moonah Links Resort||$200,000|
|November 14-20, 2022||PGA of Queensland||Nudgee Golf Club||$200,000|
|November 21-28, 2022||Australian PGA Fortinet Championship||Royal Queensland Golf Club||$2,000,000|
|ISPS HANDA Australian Open||Victoria Golf Club and Kingston Heath Golf Club||$1,700,000|
|December 5-11, 2022||Gippland Super 6||Warragul Country Club||$175,000|
|January 23-29, 2023||TPS Victoria hosted by Geoff Ogilvy||Rosebud Country Club||$200,000|
|January 30-February 5, 2023||TPS Murray River in honor of Jarrod Lyle||Cobram Barooga Golf Club||$200,000|
|TBD February 2023||Open VIC||To be determined||To be determined|
|February 13-19, 2023||TPS Sydney presented by Webex hosted by Braith Anasta||Bonnie Doon Golf Club||$200,000|
|February 20-26, 2023||TPS Hunter Valley hosted by Jan Stephenson and Peter O’Malley||Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort||$200,000|
|February 27-March 5, 2023||New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport||Millbrook Resort||$1,400,000|
|March 6-12, 2023||New Zealand PGA Championship||Auckland||$150,000|
|March 13-19, 2023||Play today NSW Open||To be determined||$400,000|
|End of March 2023||Final season||To be determined||To be determined|