There is no such thing as perfect in golf. It simply doesn’t exist.
There has never been a perfect swing. No perfect round. No perfect course. And certainly no perfect tournament has ever been played in the history of the game.
And imperfection is one of the significant and best parts of the game we all love’s allure.
But the newest golf tournament on the world stage, the Sandbelt Invitational from the brilliant golfing minds of Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Clayton, went very close to that farfetched ‘P’ word in its debut this past week.
Sure, there were minor hiccups, little things that will be well and truly addressed by the next time this event rolls around in 12 months. Such as the size of the player parking passes dwarfing the scorecards by around 15 times as Lucas Herbert mentioned on day one.
And as is inevitably the case, other issues popped up from time-to-time that required attention from the organisers, who duly dealt with whatever was at play beyond golf.
However, the event could not have asked for a better debut, more suited winner and all-round success than it had across Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne, Yarra Yarra and Peninsula Kingswood.
Of course, therein lies the success of the tournament. The venues.
The four layouts that welcomed the likes of Herbert, Ogilvy, Peter Fowler, Su Oh, Grace Kim and others were the stars of the show. All four are ranked in the top-20 courses in the country and setup as if the Australian Open was finishing on the grounds the day they welcomed the field of a little over 60.
“It’s the best courses that we have, setup as well as they can be setup, with the best players we can find. What else do you need, that’s a pretty good formula,” Ogilvy said of the event to Golf Australia magazine.
Australia has been starved of big tournament golf due to COVID, but our best courses have gone wanting even longer for other reasons. And Ogilvy, Clayton and the rest of the organising crew proved the value of venue when creating something that draws attention locally and overseas, impresses the players and has people wanting more.
“It’s great, it’s so good,” Herbert told this publication on Thursday. “I think Melbourne and golf fans here are craving live golf. We haven’t had a Vic Open in nearly two years, we haven’t really had anything where you can watch locals play, I think we have just been starving for that through COVID. We have had great turnouts every day, the courses have been amazing.”
RIGHT: Su Oh was one of the many who bought into the Sandbelt Invitational idea, and made plenty of new fans because of it. PHOTO: Paul Shire.
It was, of course, not that farfetched an idea.
Think of the biggest tournaments in the world of golf and likely The Masters and The Open come to mind.
Yes, there is history and tradition at play, now eye watering pay cheques too, but the common factor is the courses these two events are played on are at the top of most golfers’ bucket lists.
Augusta National and The Masters was in fact mentioned on occasion this week, with one knowledgeable party turning to the fellow media cohort on site and uttering “This is how The Masters started”.
"No, the Sandbelt Invitational wasn’t perfect, there is no such thing. However, it could not have asked for a better beginning. You might even say, it was perfectly imperfect." - Jimmy Emanuel.
That is perhaps hyperbolic, but it isn’t that far from the truth.
The major championship was built around a golf course that intrigues, challenges and dazzles.
The Masters is invite only, and the first event before it earned its current moniker was thrown together with a group of players those in charge thought worthy.
Augusta National’s event was started by a major champion held in the highest regard in the region, Bobby Jones, with a slightly eccentric sidekick in the form of Clifford Roberts. The Sandbelt Invitational formed by Ogilvy, who would freely admit he is no Jones but shares plenty of similarities with, and Clayton, whose hands-off approach as Tournament Director is to be admired and differs from Roberts in so many ways but shares the characteristic of knowing what makes a golf tournament great.
No one is suggesting the Sandbelt Invitational will be the fifth major, now or into the future, but it is a magnificent addition to the calendar and has enough similarities to be a success for years to come.
“The reception and reaction we have been hearing, and they are accelerating, we had a lot before the tournament and now it is all unfolding, who knows,” Ogilvy said when presented with The Masters comparison. “The sky’s the limit is not really right, but there is certainly something here, a great concept. A good formula to build on.”
Anyone from players to media, organisers and fans (not patrons), who were lucky enough to experience the event will wax lyrical about what occurred long into the future.
No, the Sandbelt Invitational wasn’t perfect, there is no such thing. However, it could not have asked for a better beginning.
You might even say, it was perfectly imperfect.