Trainee professionals can expect less brutal course conditions for this year’s PGA National Futures Championship at Ballarat Golf Club after it secured the right to continue hosting the world’s richest trainee tournament for the next three years.
This year’s Futures Championship will be held from October 20 with close to 120 players competing for a share in the $55,000 prize purse.
Ballarat Golf Club said feedback from the 2014 instalment has been overwhelmingly positive but it will try to avoid a repeat of the 2014 scoring, which saw only one player finish the 72-hole event under par.
“We want them to enjoy it and not make it too difficult,” said Ballarat Golf Club general manager Michael Phillips.
“A lot of that was the wind but we’ll definitely look at how we can better set the course up. The greens were super-fast. The PGA (of Australia) is quite keen to work with us on that, which is great.”
As part of a more favourable course setup, Phillips intimated the club would avoid growing long rough into either side of its fairways as it looks to give players a wider target to aim at from the tee.
Meanwhile, Ballarat Golf Club admits it may scrap its welcome dinner for players on the eve of the event, which was held at the club in 2014.
“The welcome dinner for us was great to have at the venue, we had a good guest speaker, but the people that were there were just the PGA trainees and their caddies. How we can better engage the community and get the community involved in the event, whether a welcome dinner isn’t the right way to go, obviously we want to look at that.”
Ballarat’s landmark tourism site – Sovereign Hill – is being considered as a venue if the welcome dinner goes ahead.
“Sovereign Hill, being such an important destination in Ballarat, we just saw that as a good link. They believe that it’s important to host events in Ballarat and get people coming to Ballarat.”
Ballarat Golf Club has been in talks with the PGA of Australia to look at ways to create added exposure for the tournament.
It will look at expanding its Open Day, which brought about 100 people to Ballarat Golf Club on the Sunday during the 2014 event.
Dozens of children benefitted from free coaching from trainees during last year’s Open Day and the club revealed it will work with the City of Ballarat to engage local multicultural groups to appeal to non-golfers in the Ballarat region.
Last year’s Futures Championship enjoyed an international flair with two New Zealanders, one UK golfer and a Canadian trainee competing and Phillips expects the PGA to again pursue overseas players.
“They’ll send out the invites again to the top trainees in New Zealand, the UK as well,” Phillips said.
Phillips expects the PGA of Australia to also attempt to lure trainees from the United States.