The Australian Open was facing the same challenges 54 years ago

Attracting the world’s best golfers to play the Australian Open has always been a challenge as suggested in this article from 1964.

While researching the history of the Australian Open, and in particular the first time it was hosted at The Lakes I stumbled upon this article published just prior to the 1964 Australian Open in the Canberra Times.

The piece is credited to “PLUS ONE”, (perhaps too critical to attach a name to it) and questions the state of professional golf in Australia given the lack of tournament prize-money on offer to attract the world’s best golfers each year.

“The monetary statistics of it point to the fact that the Australian circuit from late September through to November provides considerably less than £20,000 in prizemoney, headed by the Wills Masters of £4,000 and a TV tournament in Perth worth £3,000.

Against this, the U.S. circuit these days puts up about two million dollars for nine to 10 months, and evcn the Far East circuit early in the year now stretches to about £32,000 in about six weeks.”

Sound familiar?

If you change a few of the names and numbers, the whole article (which you can read below or by clicking the image), reads like something that could have been written this week where some golf fans (and writers) have lamented the lack of star power at the 2018 Australian Open.

Firstly, I think it’s important to note that while I agree that the field for this week’s Australian Open is lacking some young star power, it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) detract from what is one of the most prestigious trophies to win in world golf.

Secondly, the field is by no means as poor as what some are suggesting. There are loads quality players in the field with a good 20-30 with a real chance to win the Stonehaven Cup this week.

But the article does make you wonder if maybe Australian golf will always face these challenges? We may always face a number of years where some of golf’s superstars will make the journey, interleaved with a few years without the big names.

Maybe the prestigious Australian Open has always done very well to attract the big names given the far more lucrative tournaments on offer all around the world and we should just be content to protect the tournament’s integrity and play it on the best golf courses in the country.

Rather than harp on any more right now about the issues and discuss any potential fixes (if any are required), here is the article in full.

And for the record, Jack Nicklaus beat Bruce Devlin in a playoff at The Lakes in 1964. And LeGrange, from what I can tell did not make the cut. Whoever “PLUS ONE” was, he/she was right on the money with the tournament predictions.


29 Oct 1964, The Canberra Times

Australian Open starts with a question mark

Professional golf in the balance
By PLUS ONE

The £2,000 Australian Open slams off today at the Lakes Club, Sydney on a question mark—the future of professional tournament golf in Australia. The P.G.A. and Australian tournament sponsors have made many improvements in recently years.

They have, however, made little impression in providing an Australian circuit which by right of prestige and money, can he sure to attract all the leading Australian players and a handful of the world’s top.

This is the problem in a country blessed with some wonderful courses to provide sufficient incentive to keep at home in the early summer such players as Bruce Devlin, Kel Nagle, Peter Thomson and others.

This is the problem which must be faced if leading world players such as Arnie Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tony Jacklin, Bob Charles, and now the likes of Cobie Legrangc are to be attracted year by year to top tournament play in this country.

The monetary statistics of it point to the fact that the Australian circuit from late September through to November provides considerably less than £20,000 in prizemoney, headed by the Wills Masters of £4,000 and a TV tournament in Perth worth £3,000.

Against this, the U.S. circuit these days puts up about two million dollars for nine to 10 months, and evcn the Far East circuit early in the year now stretches to about £32,000 in about six weeks.

It is well known inside golf that people such as Norman von Nida, and later Peter Thomson, have been working for years to establish an Australian circuit wealthy enough in its own right to attract the best in the world.

But that ideal, while sometimes coming close to fruition on certain occasions, has never really eventuated. Even the New Zealand tournaments have ended to cut across sponsorship here.

A recent case in point was that sponsors were available for the conducting of a National £l,000 tournament in Canbcrra this year. But the promotion was dropped when it was found that the dates would clash with a New Zealand tournament, and therefore few top-Iincrs would be appearing.

After all, sponsors are entitled to the belief that they should get something back from the “gate.”

But the problem of sponsorship and increased prize money is a ticklish one.

How can sponsors go ahead with the promise of considerable prizemoney when leading players find they have commitments overseas for such things as TV series, or the new British match play championship (worth £i,000 sterling and fares just to be invited) and also the Canada Cup?

These are problems of which I feel the P.G.A. should take a little more examination. More co-ordination and co-operation is required with the Australian Golf Union.

In some amateur golf circles there is the feeling that the pros are getting a mite too hungry. Maybe!

Guarantee lacking
On the other hand, with the right co-operation and planning, both amateur and professional golf could benefit more than it is today.

Signs are that many bodies – in business or golf clubs and organisations – would be willing to put up extra finance for tournaments.

The only thing holding them back is the guarantee that top players will appear. That’s where the P.G.A. comes in.

Who’s going to win the 72-hole Australian Open starting today?

In a game where a few bad bounces, or a touch of bad driving or putting can change the fortunes, this is in the nature of trying to pick the winner of the Melbourne Cup.

South African Cobie Legrange, 22, the new wonder boy, is the form player in Australia with both the TV tournament in Perth and the Wills Masters in Melbourne under his belt.

Yet somehow one feels this big one might be beyond the new star.

I would have to bracket the Australians, Bruce Devlin. 27, and Kel Nagle, 43, with American Jack Nicklaus as favourites for this one.

If Devlin has his driving working again, he’s my man. But that is a sizable IF.

Whatever happens the winner will need some hot scoring to better the record Australian Open total of 271 set by Gary Player with his first of three Open wins at Kooyonga (Adel aide) in 1958.

That averages out at a shade more than 67.5. The Lakes has never previously been the venue of an Australian Open, so we have no guide there.


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.