GEOFF Ogilvy is a professional golfer with a distinguished career on the world’s golfing stage. 

Among his long list of achievements is winning eight PGA Tour titles including the 2006 US Open, three World Golf Championships as well as the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship.

Three times he represented the International Team at the Presidents Cup (2007-’09-’11) and is a golf course designer of some note.

So, what he says should at least be listened to by those who administer our game.

Recently, Ogilvy said he thought Australia, in some instances, had it wrong when it came to the demands of professional tournaments in this country.

And the former US Open champion may be on the money.

Ogilvy is passionate about the future of tournament golf in Australia and made that abundantly clear when he and former European Tour player Mike Clayton hosted the Sandbelt Invitational in Melbourne late last year.

“I think there’s been far too much focus on prizemoney and big name players,” he told the media (pga.org.au) in the lead-up to the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club. 

“I mean no one really minds who goes to play in the Australian Open tennis. The Melbourne Cup’s the biggest horse race in the world and nobody cares what horses are running, they want to go anyway.

“I think we’ve sat down on Tuesday and Wednesday press conferences for the last 20 years in Australia and said, ‘Isn’t this a shame Geoff, there’s no one playing here this week?’ Who’s going to come and support the tournament when we tell them don’t come because there’s no good players?

“I think all pros are great players.”

Of course, Ogilvy is correct.

The recent Australian PGA Championship was absent of star players including past champions Adam Scott, Cameron Smith and American Harold Varner III, but even if that trio did show up they would have had their work cut out beating Jediah Morgan.

Morgan, a former Australian amateur champion, fired 22-under par on a championship layout. That’s not too shabby and for the record more than half the players who made the cut finished under par.

Were these players worth watching? You bet!

Even our elite amateurs are worth following.

For example, both Elvis Smylie and Charlie Dann, when they were amateurs, won the Keperra Bowl, a 72-hole Golf Australia Order of Merit and R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking Event, with scores of 25-under par and 19-under par respectively.

The small galleries lucky enough to follow them were in awe of their shot-making ability. 

“I think we need to focus on building great events, sort of build them from the ground up again,” Ogilvy continued. 

“We’ve had this sort of all or nothing approach, that unless it’s a big massive event with the top 10 players in the world, it’s not worth having.

“I think if we can sort of go back to the basics, fundamentally sell events, just put them all on, give somebody the chance to play, build them up gradually and the big name players will gradually come.

“I don’t think you need them for a great tournament. People come to golf tournaments for a couple of reasons. 

“One, it is because they want to see people hit draws with drivers and people who can do stuff that they can’t do – and everybody here can do that. Everyone (pro) is impressive to a club golfer, if you ask me. 

“And two, is you go for the contest. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1000th player in the world versus the 900th best player in the world for one and two, the contest is the contest and that’s exciting – guys holing putts and hitting good shots and coming up with the stuff under pressure.

“I was at an Ashes Test. It wasn’t really who won or lost, it was just how good it was to watch and I think all elite sport, including golf, is like that.

“If you have a great contest, it’s appealing to watch and I think if we can focus on that rather than who’s not there, I think we can rebuild and create an unbelievable tour.

“Golf’s a massive sport in Australia, people love it. You’ve just got to give them a reason to come, not give them a reason not to come,” Ogilvy concluded.

It’s fair to say professional golf lacks the characters that once graced the fairways, but times and the game has changed. 

Sure, it would be great if the modern game had characters like the charismatic Arnold Palmer, the jovial gag-teller Lee Trevino and the engaging Gary Player, who won a record seven Australian Open titles.

Public appeal is what they all had in common, but those days and players are gone. The caravan has moved on.

Yes, there is much work to do before our next big tournaments roll around and paying attention to Geoff Ogilvy may be a start.

Surely, Ogilvy is not the only person, albeit one with great golf credentials, to have thoughts on professional tournament golf in Australia?

About David Newbery

Chief writer David Newbery has been living, breathing and writing and editing golf for more than 30 years. His extensive knowledge of the game comes from covering golf around the world. Hired by Inside Golf in 2009, David previously worked as the editor of The Golfer for 25 years and before that worked for numerous daily newspapers in Australia and overseas. The Brisbane-based journalist describes his golf game as “a work in progress”, but has had the privilege of playing golf with some of the game’s best players including nine-time major winner Gary Player. David enjoys travelling, reading, music, photography and spending time with family and friends – on and off the golf course.

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