Newsmaker of the month: Cameron Smith
When Cameron Smith last played on home soil, he was still considered a baby-faced prodigy of extraordinary promise. After a close-to three-year wait, Smith’s return solidified his new-found status as the pied piper of Australian golf.
From the moment he touched down in Brisbane with the claret jug in tow, Smith was a man in demand.
A year that would end with five wins – including the Players Championship, The Open and a third Australian PGA Championship – was honoured with a second Greg Norman Medal.
He was named The Courier Mail Channel Seven Queensland Sport Star of the Year, had a crack (with coach Grant Field) at a Guinness World Record, was made an honoree member of Royal Queensland Golf Club, was the first golfer to be given the keys to the city by the Brisbane Lord Mayor and posed for photos and signed autographs for fans of all ages wherever he went.
He rode the wave of adrenaline provided by the support of family and friends to claim the Joe Kirkwood Cup at RQ but fell short in his quest to win a maiden Australian Open, missing the 54-hole cut after admitting to being a “few too many beers deep” on Friday afternoon when he appeared unlikely to progress past round two.
The PGA Tour of Australasia season consists of more than just its two biggest events, but when we look back on the 2022-2023 summer of golf it will be remembered as the year in which Australia officially became ‘Cam Country’.
“A lot’s changed in the three years since I’ve been here,” Smith conceded. “I’m really looking forward to what I can do next year. Hopefully I can keep improving and have plenty of years like this.”
[Getty images: Bradley Kanaris]
Aaron Wilkin: Was the only player to post four-rounds of even-par or better to win the Queensland PGA Championship at Nudgee Golf Club, edging New South Welshman Justin Warren at the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Minjee Lee: The two-time Major champion added to her stellar year by taking out the $US1 million season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge on the LPGA Tour, taking the bounty won 12 months earlier by Hannah Green.
Grange Golf Club: With the backing of the South Australian Government, Grange Golf Club will be the host site of the first LIV Golf Series event to be played in Australia, from April 21-23.
Connor McKinney, Hayden Hopewell and Kirsten Rudgeley: The West Australians left behind decorated amateur careers and made the plunge into the professional ranks. McKinney and Hopewell made their pro debuts at the Australian PGA while Rudgeley earned her first cheque by making the cut at the Women’s Australian Open.
Asia-Pacific Senior Amateur: The Australian teams of Greg Rhodes, Ken Brewer, Ian Frost and Mark Allen, and Sue Wooster, Nadene Gole and Jacqueline Morgan ensured Australia became the first country to win both team events at the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation Senior Amateur Championship in Malaysia.
Jasper Stubbs: The Victorian stunned two-time finalist Mitchell Kale 6&5 in the final to win the New Zealand Amateur at Otago Golf Club, his first overseas victory.
Amanda Bowman: A primary school PE teacher, Bowman was named the Golf Australia Community Instructor of the Year for introducing a MyGolf program that attracted 57 juniors and helped to secure the future of Crystal Brook Golf Club, two hours north of Adelaide.
Dylan Parish and Ashleigh Arnold: Crowned the first Australian Mid-Amateur champions since 2019, Parish (Yeppoon GC) and Arnold (Bonnie Doon GC) won by two and four strokes, respectively, at Bribie Island Golf Club.
He did what?
West Australian Haydn Barron birdied the hardest hole at Victoria Golf Club all week – the par-4 17th – and then holed a putt from off the fringe for eagle at the 18th to earn a debut appearance at The Open in 2023. Barron, Min Woo Lee and Spain’s Alejandro Canizares were the three to earn Open spots as the Australian Open regained its status as part of The Open Qualifying Series.