Australian PGA Championship Heading North

The Clubhouse at Royal Queensland – photo Bruce Young

Despite RACV Royal Pines Resort’s increasing success and popularity as the host venue for the Australian PGA Championship over the past seven years, it was today announced at a media conference at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane that one of Australian golf’s flagship events will head north in late 2020.

The CEO of the PGA of Australia, Gavin Kirkman, advised that the event will return to Royal Queensland Golf Club for the first time since 2001, when Robert Allenby secured the second of two consecutive titles he won at the venue.

The arrangement is the first of a three-year deal involving the respective stakeholders including the PGA of Australia, Royal Queensland Golf Club, The Brisbane City Council and Queensland Tourism and Events.

That Royal Queensland is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020 no doubt played a role in the decision especially given the significant history the golf club has created in Australian golf.

“We’re incredibly excited to return to Brisbane and the Royal Queensland Golf Club to celebrate a milestone anniversary of one of the country’s most treasured golf courses,” said Kirkman.

“Royal Queensland Golf Club is a rich breeding ground which has unearthed a number of PGA Professionals, including one of the game’s icons, Greg Norman. We look forward to celebrating the club’s history with our flagship event.

“We know Brisbane loves its live sporting events and we look forward to seeing the crowds come out to cheer on our home-grown and international golfers, while enjoying the party atmosphere of the Championship, which will continue to deliver exciting, vibrant and fan-friendly entertainment precincts on course”

In addition to hosting the PGA Championship on two occasions the Royal Queensland layout has also staged the Australian Open three times, the last of those coming in 1973 when American Jesse Snead won.

It has also hosted other PGA Tour of Australasia events including two Players Championships won by Greg Chalmers and Brett Rumford in the late 1990’s.

Perhaps its most significant role in hosting an event, however, came when Arnold Palmer won at Royal Queensland in 1966, defeating Kel Nagle by five shots in the process and winning the grand total of $1600 for his efforts.

The layout has undergone a total redesign since those heady days, the reclamation of some of the existing layout for the use of a second Gateway Bridge in 2005 requiring a major reconfiguration and upgrade carried out by Mike Clayton and his then design team

The par 3 17th at Royal Queensland – photo Bruce Young

The move from the Gold Coast is not a universally popular one, the increasing acceptance of RACV Royal Pines Resort as an end of year finale proving a real hit with players and families although Kirkman suggested the door was not completely closed on RACV Royal Pines or the Gold Coast in future years.

“The decision to move the event to the Royal Queensland Club was to continue to grow and evolve the event but we will continue to talk with RACV Royal Pines and the Gold Coast about future opportunities.

“This is a three-year deal and after those three years all stakeholders will have options,” said Kirkman.

While a specific date is yet to be confirmed for the 2020 event it is likely to be the first week of December, Kirkman explaining why, at this stage, it could not be totally locked in place.

“Our event is co-sanctioned with the European Tour and therefore has to align with their schedule,” added Kirkman.

“Traditionally the Hong Kong Open is played in Thanksgiving week and the week following is where we see it at this stage although those things have to go through the approval process.”

Perhaps surprisingly, there was no mention made of RACV Royal Pines in the press release in conjunction with the announcement but there is little doubting the impact the Gold Coast venue has had on the event, especially having taken over hosting duties at relatively late notice following the breakdown in negotiations between Palmer Coolum Resort and The PGA of Australia in 2012.

Palmer Coolum Resort or Hyatt Regency Coolum as it was more popularly known took over as the venue for the Australian PGA from Royal Queensland in 2002 and played host for eleven years.

Royal Pines played host to the event for the past seven years, therefore, and has seen two Queenslanders, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith win on two occasions at the venue.

During that time the RACV Royal Pines layout underwent a major redesign itself and after a shaky start during a period where the revamp was carried out over two six month periods it has developed into a fine test of tournament golf.

The securing of the PGA Championship provided the catalyst for the changes and has left the Resort with a much more popular and challenging golf course than was the case in its early days.

It can be proud also of the heritage it has already created in Australian golf since its opening in the early 1990’s, having been the venue for numerous Australian Ladies Masters, (eight of which were won by Karrie Webb) but the venue where nearly every one of the modern day greats of the female game has participated including Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Laura Davies.

Adam Scott won the first and the last of the Australian PGA Championships at RACV Royal Pines and even if it never does host another, it is a yet another piece of Australian golfing history that RACV Royal Pines can boast.

RACV Royal Pines – photo Bruce Young

 

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