The ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia will endeavour to recapture golf’s golden years in this country with a reimagined tournament schedule that will see the Tour in full swing from October and culminate with the crowning of the Order of Merit winner in March.
The restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic has brought about significant disruption to the 2020 schedule but in order to play a full complement of events the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia will extend the season until March 2021, a format that will become the norm moving forward.
When Greg Norman was at the height of his powers in the 1980s and 1990s the Australian summer of golf featured tournaments such as the Heineken Classic, Australian Masters and Johnnie Walker Classic in February that attracted some of the game’s biggest names.
Co-sanctioned with the Nationwide Tour (now Korn Ferry Tour) – now the only direct pathway to the PGA Tour – the Jacob’s Creek Open and Moonah Classic were also played in February between 2002 to 2010.
A shift to a wrap-around season would not only allow golf fans to follow the Order of Merit race more easily, but according to ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Tournaments Director Nick Dastey, will also open the door for new events to be added in the January-February window.
RIGHT: The new schedule will aim to return the glory days of golf in Australia, when major champions like Ernie Els were regular visitors, and winners, on our shores. PHOTO: Chris McGrath/Getty Images.
“The coronavirus has obviously caused great disruption to golf tournaments throughout the world but we saw an opportunity to not only provide our players with a full season this year but put in place a schedule that we believe is in the best interests of golf in Australia,” Dastey said.
“If the current restrictions do not ease in time we now have the opportunity to push events into the early months of 2021 and give our players every opportunity to push for that Order of Merit title.
“We remain hopeful that the tournaments currently scheduled will proceed as planned but we are also exploring opportunities to add new events early next year to further bolster the schedule.
“The golf season used to run over the summer months and into the new year and we believe by adjusting the schedule in this way that it will be a positive move not only for our players but also golf fans.”
An adjusted ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia schedule centred around an October-March fixture would provide:
- Defined golf season that fans can engage with over a six-month period.
- Opportunity to add events early in the new year, a relatively quiet period in an otherwise busy golf calendar.
- Possibility of more co-sanctioning with the European Tour to create an ‘Aussie Swing’ early in the new year.
- Opportunities to introduce new and innovative events that would serve as the culmination of the Order of Merit race.
- Incorporation of The Players Series featuring male and female professionals into the schedule.
- Shift of ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Qualifying School to a March-April date.
Currently the winner of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit receives a one-year exemption onto the European Tour and such a shift in dates would allow them time to properly prepare for a European season that often begins in November.
As Tour Development Manager, former Tour player Kim Felton is tasked with creating new opportunities to add to the schedule and is excited by what an adjusted calendar offers.
“Many fans will remember the Aussie summer of golf starting in October and carrying the excitement of the Order of Merit chase into January and February. Rolling back to this will give us the potential to host more events, which will significantly enhance the quality of our schedule,” said Felton.
“Creating more playing opportunities will strengthen our talent pathways and the development of our future stars so they can progress onto the world stage. We are confident the new-look schedule will reinvigorate the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and allow golf fans to be more engaged in the careers of our Aussie golfers.
“In some respects this change, brought upon by COVID-19, has been fortuitous and we’re really excited by what it allows us to do and what a wrap-around season can potentially look like.”
The return of a wrap-around Australian summer of golf won’t impact the Australian PGA Championship, with the PGA’s flagship event returning to its traditional timeslot.
Subject to the approval of government and health authorities, the 2020 event will be played on December 3-6 at Royal Queensland Golf Club in celebration of the club’s centenary year.
PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman said he was excited to have one of Aussie golf’s favourite tournaments played in Queensland’s capital for the first time since 2001.
“We are thrilled to be back at one of the country’s treasured courses in Royal Queensland Golf Club’s centenary year,” Kirkman said.
“The Australian PGA Championship remains one of the world’s most competitive tournaments and has helped catapult the careers of its champions. Adam Scott’s breakthrough last year translated to immediate success on the PGA Tour at the Genesis Invitational less than two months later.
“In 2018 Cameron Smith won his second consecutive Joe Kirkwood Cup and represented the Internationals at the Presidents Cup 12 months on. We hope these champions, along with the many other international stars, are able to play in this coveted event at Royal Queensland Golf Club.”
Kirkman said the PGA will work closely with the government bodies and health authorities to ensure the event is played in a healthy and safe environment.
“This year’s Australian PGA Championship will be unlike any other for a number of reasons,” he said.
“We will work closely with the Queensland government and health authorities to ensure this event is conducted in a safe and healthy environment.
“Our team is building a number of contingency plans for every possible scenario. Our number one priority is the health and safety of all associated with the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
“Announcing the date of the Australian PGA Championship is another positive step for our fans and players as we look to the future. We will resume competition when it is safe and is in line with the guidance of the leading public health authorities and government.”