By Michael Davis

IT is not the role of Inside Golf to be a cheerleader for any of the game’s governing bodies.

However, we are not backward in coming forward when genuine credit is deserved.

And this is absolutely the case following the inspired move to combine the men’s and women’s Australian opens.

Long before the Covid pandemic, certainly the men’s open had been floundering, a victim of geography, the golf calendar and the voracious PGA Tour.

This was far less so for the women’s event, courtesy of the LPGA. Still, in my view, the women’s tournament lacked a bit off impact in terms of whom it attracted to Australia.

But now, in a world-first for golf, the two events are joining forces.

It is nothing short of an inspired and creative move.

There is a lot of backslapping and mutual admiration going on among the various officials from government departments and sporting bodies after pulling this together. Good luck to the bureaucrats.

The real innovators, though, were organisers of the Victorian Open at 13th Beach a good few years ago. They boldly combined the men’s and women’s tournaments in what was an inspired move and an overnight success.

Although the two national opens are a bigger production, organisers can be more than confident that Australian golf galleries will embrace them.

Let’s face it we have been starved of top flight tournaments golf for a good few years now. And it certainly looked unhopeful for the future once Covid shut the world down.

The two opens will be played at the same time and at the same venues, with the event to be held on the world-famous Melbourne Sandbelt from December 1-4.

Victoria Golf Club is the primary host venue across all four days of the tournament and Kingston Heath Golf Club is set to host play on the first two days. 

The men’s event will headline the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of 

Australasia, while the women’s event will be sanctioned by the WPGA Tour of Australasia.

In another first for the Australian Open, the men’s event will also be sanctioned on the DP World Tour, putting Australian golf on the world stage for two consecutive weeks with the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship to be staged at Royal Queensland the week prior.

Field sizes of 144 men and 144 women will compete for an equal split of the minimum $3.4 million prizemoney on offer.

This year’s Australian Open will also feature the third edition of the Australian All Abilities Championship, which assembles the top 12 players on the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability. 

Golf Australia’s CEO James Sutherland says the new format is a significant strategic move. 

“This truly is a coup for Australian golf. It presents a great opportunity for the game and will take the two Open championships to another level,” Sutherland says.

“We’ve seen the success of the Vic Open in this format, and more recently the Webex Players Series where men and women play for the same title.

“We’re incredibly excited to be able to make this announcement, and it wouldn’t have happened without the support of Visit Victoria and the Victorian Government.

The men will play for their own Australian Open title, the Stonehaven Cup, and the women for the Patricia Bridges Bowl. Both trophies have been won by some of the best golfers to play the game.

“We have huge aspirations for this event. This new format will provide the springboard for a wonderful celebration of golf,” Sutherland says.

“The move aligns with our new national strategy and our ambitions to appeal to a new audience. In keeping with our belief that golf is a sport for everyone, the strategy demands that we present our tournaments as inclusive and fun events.”

On the Australian All Abilities Championship, Sutherland said: “The Australian Open has been a world leader in this space.” 

Sutherland, the former head honcho at Cricket Australia, has come along at the right time for golf.

Those who thought he was just looking for a retirement gig on around a minimum of what is believed to be $500,000 a year, were way off the mark.

The man knows no half measures. 

His big picture strategy for the game from hacker to elite level is most impressive.

Let’s hope he sticks around forever because he is elevating golf to its rightful position on the sporting landscape. And we’re happy to come along for the ride.

About Inside Golf

Australia's Golf News Leader, Inside Golf gives you in-depth coverage of Australian golf news, golf events, golf travel and holiday destinations, Australian and international golf course reviews, the hottest new golf gear and tips and drills to improve your golf game. Written by award-winning journalists, Inside Golf also features interviews with Australia's top professional golfers, the game's rising stars, industry leaders and golf equipment manufacturers. You can even win great golf prizes and equipment. It’s all in Inside Golf. FREE at Australian golf courses, driving ranges and golf retailers across Australia.

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