Gavin Kirkman PGA of Australia C.E.O and Rodger Davis (Chairman) at today’s media conference – photo PGA of Australia

The Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia received a major boost this week when the PGA of Australasia’s CEO, Gavin Kirkman and its Chairman, Rodger Davis, announced an extension of their strategic alliance with the DP World Tour (previously known as the European Tour).

The result will see prize-money for the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship doubled for its late 2022 edition but, importantly for the pathways so necessary for player development, the initiative will also provide the opportunity for those playing events on the PGA Tour of Australasia, greater access to golfing tours worldwide.

That such an initiative comes at a time when Covid is inflicting all sorts of pressures on the the sporting world makes the announcement even more impressive and is a reflection of two years work by the PGA of Australia to build on its relationship with the then European Tour in order to allow its members to more easily access ongoing pathways.

The delayed 2020 then 2021 Australian PGA Championship was to have been a European Tour event. The impact of Covid ruled that out, but subject to a return to some sort of normality in the second half of this year, the event will form part of the early 2022/2023 season DP World Tour and provide a likely fitting climax to a race for three DP World Tour cards up for grabs via the PGA Tour of Australasia.

“We’ve been in partnership in an alliance with them (European Tour) from 2017, but we’re going to extend and move into another five year term with the DP World Tour,” said Kirkman.

“The partnership will increase player pathways for Australasian players. The Fortinet Australian PGA Championship will increase in prize money from the addition or staging of the championship in 2022 from $1 million to $2 million and it will have a co-sanction arrangement on the DP World Tour for the next five years.

“There will be an increase of prize money to a range of tournaments on our Tour and there will also be increased events over the next three to five year term.  You’ll see will be additional DP World co-sanctioned events here on the Australasian Tour.”

The obvious question was just where this money is coming from?

“I think the strategic alliance and I think the billboard funding here, you’ll see Fortinet has just come on board.  Fortinet is a cyber security company that’s involved with PGA Tour and also DP World Tour, so you can see strengthening the alliance from working with the other tours, it’s going to open up more commercial opportunities for our commercial team to be able to work with.

“They’re investing into our tour to make sure we develop, we’re sustainable and we’ve got the pathways, but it will be a combination, not just tipping money into our Tour.  A combination of working closely and commercialising our Tour, working closely aligned to the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

On the increased exemptions to other tours as a result of success here on the PGA Tour of Australasia, Kirkman expanded.

“The great pathway is at the moment our Order of Merit.  We receive one DP World Tour card at the end of our Order of Merit, that one will go to three.  So our top three players on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit will receive DP World Tour cards.

“When you co-sanction an event, you also get the winning exemption from winning a co-sanctioned event on the DP World Tour.

“The other key area will be that any DP World Tour in Asia, we will get five invites into. With the Indian Open coming up and with the Hero Challenge, that’s going to be one event that you’ll see that we’ll have five invites.

“From the PGA Tour’s point of view, there’s also more to final stage of Korn Ferry Tour, there will be five players coming off our Order of Merit going to final stage of Korn Ferry Tour.

“So what we’ve tried to do and we’ve been working for over 12 months, is to ensure that we’re working with all tours to make sure the pathway to get to the main tours is really important.”

Given the demands of the past two years and the impact of the Covid virus on so many sporting events and organisations, the progress the PGA Tour of Australasia has made in putting to bed the features announced today is particularly satisfying to Kirkman.

“The toughest part from our organisation, is that we presented a Tour vision to the board two years ago and that’s exactly when COVID came to town.  So, we’ve got great guns to start with Nick Dastey and Kim Felton that work for our organisation, when they started leading the Tour and we’re working right beside them with Michael McDonald, our commercial director.  We had this vision two years ago, but we were just in a position of questioning how were we going to implement and grow the Tour.

“The last six months we’ve been in discussion with the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour and the confidence they have in what we’ve put on the table with our vision, makes this very satisfying.

“To sit here today and to be able to talk to our players who are out there warming up (at Royal Queensland) and getting ready to tee off tomorrow morning, that we’ve got some strategic plans for our Tournament, we’re going to see growth over the next month for the current season and we’re also then going to see growth for the next five years.  It puts us in a really strong position, to make our Tour sustainable.”