The potential ramifications on Australian golf of a proposed golf league backed by a Saudi Arabian-based organisation have come under closer scrutiny.
Since the appointment of Greg Norman as CEO of LIV Golf Investments and its plan to take over the Asian Golf Tour, there has been a lot of discussion about the potential impact, or perhaps windfall for Australian golf.
For a decade or two, Australian professional golf has shrunk to all but a handful of tournaments due to a lack of enticing prize money, appearance fees and a protracted US PGA Tour season.
The prospect of elevating our national open or indeed any Australian golf tournament back onto the world stage with the world’s best golfers and a big, fat winner’s cheque could be hard to resist.
Matt Cleary reported for The Guardian on the ethical dilemma that may arrive on the doorstep of the Australian Open or the Australian PGA Championship if they were asked to be a part of the new golf league.
Golf Australia has made a big play of getting women and girls involved in golf. But could it still hold that high ground while taking money from a nation where women were only allowed to drive cars, hold passports and travel abroad without a male guardian in 2019? Where local (Sharia) law says gay people can be stoned to death? Where “adulterers” can be beheaded? Where, according to US intelligence agencies, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul?
Should Australian golf draw a line in the sand and knock back Norman (who, again, hasn’t made any formal or public entreaty that he wants the Australian Open or any Australian event) and his Asian Tour-sanctioned “super league”?
Or will the game look the other way and find the enormous sums of money the kingdom continues to swap for oil too tempting to pass up on? To point to the inaugural National Golf Week, that has been trumpeted in Saudi Arabia and will “support our ‘Vision 2030’ goals in terms of encouraging as many Saudis as possible to get active, regardless of their age, gender or how good they are at golf”?
As Australian amateur golfer, the late Kerry Packer, once said: “There’s a little bit of the whore in all of us. Gentlemen, name your price.”
And Dean Bilton wrote a thorough piece for ABC News on the breakaway tour’s plans, Greg Norman’s role in it all and whether Australian professional golf may get in on the action.
If the only potential obstacle is the make-up of the moral compass of each individual involved, what stands in its way? And beyond that, does Australian professional golf — so damaged and beleaguered from these COVID years — look to cut itself off a piece of the pie?
Norman says he has already had discussions with government officials who are interested in “engaging” with his events, and that his phone has been “inundated from governments to corporations to players to coaches right across the board”.
“If I can give Australia the opportunity to host an event and be involved with it, I’m all for it,” he says.