Ballarat can expect an all-encompassing assault on the golfing senses when it hosts what the PGA of Australia is touting as the unofficial trainee world championship in October.
More than 100 of the nation’s and the world’s best trainee professionals will tee it up in the $55,000 PGA National Futures Championship at the Peter Thomson-designed Ballarat Golf Club from October 21-24.
Event organisers are set to hit the city’s streets and schools to stage major golf promotions throughout the week.
The golf tournament itself will run that week from Tuesday until Friday but with players expected to arrive in town on the Sunday beforehand, golf fans and beginners will be involved the entire week.
Adult and junior clinics will be run on the Sunday, followed by a longest drive contest for amateurs, allowing them to vie for prizes and compete alongside big-hitting trainees.
“It will be a demonstration on how far the young trainees hit it and the punter can come along and have a go,” says the PGA’s Executive Officer of Training and Education, Geoff Stewart.
“Trainee professionals are virtually all young males so they tend to hit it virtually as far as touring professionals in the States so it’s a good opportunity for amateurs to see how they track against them.”
Local school children are also likely to benefit from the week’s festivities with trainees visiting several schools during a busy Pro-Am day on the Monday.
“We (are) happy to make two or three groups of trainees available for the morning and for the afternoon so between four and six schools should be visited. They might be seeing 20 or 30 kids at each school,” Stewart says.
“The trainees who are playing in the afternoon Pro-Am will head off in the morning and the trainees who are playing in the morning will head off in the afternoon to do the school clinics. We’re trying to maximise the time that we spend in Ballarat with the trainees for community engagement.”
Anyone in Ballarat during that week could also get a taste for the game with tournament organisers setting up a blow-up hitting bay at Ballarat’s Bridge Mall shopping district on the Tuesday and Wednesday during the 72-hole strokeplay event.
“We’re planning on getting that into the shopping centre to promote the fact that there’s a PGA event in town and that PGA members are available to the public for coaching or advice and just that concept of PGA members being experts in the game of golf,” Stewart says.
The PGA of Australia has predicted it will be a breakthrough week for Ballarat as it looks for greater recognition as a golf destination.
It’s anticipated that Ballarat’s regional location will bring a far greater level of media exposure to the event than if it were held in Melbourne where it would be forced to compete against other mainstream sports for the week.
“It becomes a major event when it’s held in that major regional hub,” Stewart admits. “I’m hoping it’s the event in Ballarat for that week. You essentially do have the next generation of golfers in town. I’m just hoping the Ballarat Courier or WIN News up there really pick it up all week.”
The PGA of Australia has revealed the event will have an international flair with players from the US, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and England expected to tee it up.
“It’s the most prizemoney for any trainee event in the world so with trainees from other countries playing in it, it’s essentially an unofficial trainee world championship,” Stewart says.