Opinion

The Cup Runneth (and now it’s over)

Well, another Presidents Cup has been run and won…by the Americans. (Sigh)

Immediately following the event, I, like most of Australia and the non-American-viewing-public, felt more than a bit flat. Not just because the International team lost what was shaping up to be a thrilling (and, let’s face it, a much-needed) victory throughout the week, but also (and more disappointingly) because the ending of this event signalled—for all intents and purposes—the end of world-class, big-name golf in Australia for the foreseeable future. 

Indeed, apart from the Vic Open, Australian golf fans have very little to look forward to as we open a new decade. With no more “Big Name” events scheduled for anywhere in the country (let’s pause in remembrance of The Perth International/Super-6 and the Australian Masters), Aussie golfers are currently experiencing the same sort of let-down as we do following the usual December-Post-Christmas-gift-rip-and-tear blues.

Australian (and especially Victorian) golf fans have been treated to some quality golf events over the last few years, with the Presidents Cup and World Cup of Golf both filling the huge gap that Golf Australia created when they short-sightedly sent the Australian Open to a semi-permanent home in Sydney (a move that I condemned from day 1, and have written about extensively in these pages). These world-class events helped draw some of the world’s top players to our shores. A couple of these big names (though far too few, in my opinion) even found their way to Sydney to compete in our National Open.  And the crowds (especially in Melbourne last month) were simply HUGE. With spectators at Royal Melbourne last month lining the fairways—at times five or six-rows deep—we showed the golfing world that Australian golf fans are a force to be reckoned with (and marketed to!).

Now, as we reach the tail end of the near-decade of “Big events” in Victoria, we are left with what appears to be another huge gap in Victoria’s (and Australia’s) golfing future. And this gap is on a Grand Canyon scale.

While the Australian Open is set to return to Melbourne this year, and in 2022, for a pair of token appearances, we have nothing but daylight in the “Upcoming” section of our viewership calendar.  

While there has been no announcement yet regarding a host country for the next staging of the World Cup of Golf, it would seem to be a good fit for Melbourne to host the event again in 2021, but even then, judging by the relatively low-ranked field we saw in 2018, it may not draw the types of names that Australian golf fans want (or deserve).

Nor does it solve the issue of what is to come after.  Without a PGA Tour-level marquee event to draw the world’s best players to our shores, we can safely assume that the fields in our home-grown events will continue to be lacklustre. Heck, if the last few Aussie Opens couldn’t attract more than a few international stars—who were already going to be here for The Presidents Cup or the World Cup—then what hope do we have for the future—with no magnet event in place? It’s not like the prize fund is a big draw.

I should note that the above mostly applies to the men’s events. The ALPG and LPGA/LET Tours are, happily, still attracting some big names to their Oz events, which should be applauded.

Indeed, events like the Vic Open appear to be future of Australian golf.

Perhaps Golf Australia should finally wake up and admit that they have made a major mistake, and thus begin to move forward. Like I (and many golf writers and experts) have suggested for many years, it is high time to re-schedule our National Open to a January/February slot (to build off an Asia-swing or the Hawaiian events), work harder to get a major Tour on board with co-sanctioning or World Golf Ranking points, and even investigate options to emulate the Vic Open—with men and women competing on the same courses, at the same time, for the same prize purse. Let’s not forget that the Vic Open was, up until a few years ago, in a fairly similar situation as the current Australian Open finds itself. But with a bit of creativity, innovation (and a bit of risk-taking) it is proving to be a real success story.

Australian golf (and golfers) deserve the very best events in the next decade. Let’s hope we can get some.

As always, I welcome your comments

See you on the fairways,

Richard Fellner

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