Why is the Aussie golf tour a fat zero, when South Africa’s Sunshine Tour is booming? What has happened to the once proud Australian professional golf tour? Where have all the tournaments gone and the sponsors? Why is our local scene a virtual nonstarter, when a poorer nation like South Africa can maintain a flourishing pro golf circuit? It is too easy to blame the Covid pandemic because things were dire well before its untimely arrival. Do we blame the people in charge of Golf Australia and the Aussie PGA?
The Recent Cancellation of the Australian Open
Kim Felton is the tour development manager with the PGA of Australia. Kim was once a pro golfer himself. The recent cancellation of the Aussie Open for both men and women, makes back to back cancellations of these iconic events on the golf calendar. The Oceania Golf Players Association, a new player advocacy group, has criticised the decision and the lack of consultation going into it. It is like pro golf has fallen off the map Down Under and both players and fans are mad about that.
Professional Golf in OZ Has Struggled to Attract Sponsors
In many ways professional golf in OZ has always struggled in comparison to a sport like tennis. It has been a long time since Kerry Packer used to bring golf’s major talents to our shores in the forms of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player- Golf’s Big 3. The tyranny of distance and the shrinking of prize money offered have combined to make us the poor relation of world golf. The top players will only travel if the money makes it worth their while. Sponsorship in Australia for golf is meagre in comparison to what is on offer in Asia, Europe, and the States. Why is that so and what can we do about it?
We Have Great Golfing Talent
We have always had great talent in both the women’s and men’s games. We have Aussies making fine livings at the highest level on tours in America, Europe, and Asia. Golf boasts one of the highest participation levels of any sport in Australia. The game of golf has always been associated with wealth and privilege. Tiger Woods made the game of golf universally popular with kids and sports fans globally. Sponsorship levels around the world, excepting Australia, have never been higher. What is it with the local product and the local business community? Is it the people selling the game at Golf Australia and the PGA?
How come South Africa’s Sunshine Tour is flourishing and ours is a stunted weed? What do we have to do to turn this thing around? Kim Felton reckons 2022 will be a much better year for the local golf tour. There are people like Geoff Ogilvy who are doing their best to inject life into the local scene going forward. Golf needs more regular exposure on our TV screens, in this writer’s view. We would do well to foster appreciation for the upcoming young golfers by exposing them to the eyeballs of the many Australians who regularly play this great game.