Many thoughts have been aired about the plight of the Australasian professional tour.
Many years ago, the legendary Peter Thomson said Australia was just a nursery.
Of course, there are others who bemoan the current state of the Australian Open – once considered by some as the world’s fifth major.
Yet others wail that the American stars won’t travel halfway around the world to play in a $1.25 million tournament when they can play in middling event at home for $6-7 million each week.
That said; let’s look at what the tour does have to offer in the months ahead.
The ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia will stage:
• The Northern Territory PGA ($150,000);
• The West Australian PGA ($150,000);
• The WA Open ($125,000);
• The Australian Open (prizemoney TBC);
• The Australian PGA (TBC); and
• The New Zealand Open (TBC).
It’s expected the Australian Open, Australian PGA Championship and the New Zealand Open each will offer $1m plus in prizemoney.
Earlier this year we witnessed the staging of the Gippsland Super 6 matchplay ($125,000), TPS Victoria hosted by Geoff Ogilvy ($150,000), Victorian PGA ($137,500), Moonah Links PGA Classic ($150,000), TPS Sydney hosted by Briath Anasta ($150,000), the Queensland Open ($125,000) and the Golf Challenge NSW Open ($400,000).
Organisers have worked hard to get these events up and running, but it’s a long way short of what was on offer in the golden era of golf in this country when Greg Norman almost single-handedly dragged the game along.
Back in 2000/2001 the Australasian Tour staged:
• The Australian Open ($1.25m);
• The Australian PGA ($1m);
• The Ford Open ($600,000);
• The Victorian Open ($250,000);
• The NZ Open ($NZ500,000);
• The Canon Challenge ($550,000);
• The Heinekin Classic ($1.7m);
• The Greg Norman Holden International ($2m);
• The Australian Masters ($1m); and
• The ANZ Championship ($1.5).
And over in Thailand the $1.4m Johnnie Walker Classic, co-sanctioned with the European Tour, was played and won by Tiger Woods with Aussie Geoff Ogilvy runner-up.
Back then, more than $10m was in the pot.
In 2001, Aaron Baddeley topped the Order of Merit with $662,125 after playing just seven events.
Last year Brad Kennedy played eight tournaments and finished on top of the OOM with $302,480 in earnings.
Aside from the PGA Tour of Australasia tournaments there is the pro-am circuit across the country.
And nowhere is it bigger than in Queensland with more than 40 events with prizemoney of more than $500,000 – half of what it was pre-Covid-19.
Yes, the pandemic forced the cancellation of tournaments Australia-wide with Victoria the hardest hit.
Still, this year there is around $1m up for grabs for our local professionals.
And let’s not forget the growing Legends Tour.
Queensland pushes the old blokes to the line in 26 events for more than $300,000, NSW has 25 starts with prizemoney on offer yet to be confirmed by most clubs and Victoria is in the race with eight or nine events while Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania too have a number of Legends Tour events.
The Legends Tour is growing in popularity among golf fans.
They can’t wait to get out and watch former international stars like Peter Lonard, Peter Senior, Craig Parry, Peter O’Malley, Peter Fowler, Mike Harwood, Terry Price et al.
On the major front, the good news is the Australian Open and the Australia PGA tournaments are back later this year.
Anyone who has witnessed the major events in Australia in past years could not complain about the excitement of the finishes or the standard of play – even without the American and European so-called big name players.
It all adds up to a neat pile of the “folding stuff” if you put it all in one bundle.
But the question remains: How can we get golf Down Under back to the glory days when there were many more $1m events and for the players more than $10m in prizemoney?
Perhaps if every member of a golf club chipped in $10 towards prizemoney it would go a long way to helping resurrect the tour.
Who knows, with bigger prize purses on offer it might just entice a few Americans (and Europeans) to try their luck in the lucky country.
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