With the Presidents Cup rumoured to be on its way back to Royal Melbourne in 2028, the PGA Tour can cross new territory and make its biggest statement yet.

Why did the Presidents Cup player cross the road?

Sorry, there’s no punchline here because this isn’t a joke – quite the contrary, actually.

I had a mysterious dream the other night. I’m putting out on the 390-metre eighth hole at the new Sandy Golf Links in Melbourne when a ball trickles up onto the green behind me. “That’s some hit,” I tell my playing partners on the longest hole on the course. The owner of the ball comes marching up towards us and immediately looks familiar. “Hey, guys. Sorry for hitting up. I didn’t realise how ridiculously short and fun this course was,” says the man in an American accent, sporting a Hogan cap and star-spangled colours.

It’s big-hitting golf megastar Bryson DeChambeau. Why am I dreaming about Bryson DeChambeau playing a public course in Aussie suburbia? My deep sleep continues: “Do you mind if I join you guys?” Bryson asks. “I think that’s Brooks [Koepka] up ahead of us. Let’s catch up.”

We can’t believe our eyes. A quick glance around the course reveals a star-studded field of Presidents Cup representatives. On the hole to our left is Aussie favourite Cam Smith giving a putting lesson to a bunch of starstruck teenagers. To my right, Marc Leishman hands out cans of Leishman Lager and high-fives locals. Up at the range, Hideki Matsuyama and Abraham Ancer are teaching first-timers how to hold a golf club, all while Dustin Johnson is crushing Vegemite sandwiches and signing autographs.

There are children’s games set up around the clubhouse, Presidents Cup merchandise being handed out to all and sundry, and TV crews on site to capture every minute of it.

Australian golf bosses and the PGA Tour commissioner are waxing lyrical about why public golf is the No.1 focus for all bodies moving forward. 

“Taking the Presidents Cup launch to a public golf course like this is our way of showing the world we get it,”says the commish. “We understand how important it is to showcase the stars of our sport to grassroots golf outside of America.”

Instead of bashing golf balls into the Yarra River with a few celebrities, here were the world’s best golfers being given tee-times with Average Joes, on one of Australia’s best new public golf facilities, literally across the road from Royal Melbourne Golf Club where they’ll be exhibiting their talents for the remainder of the week. 

It was then I awoke to the real world.

Sadly, Sandy Golf Links is likely to once again serve as the carpark for the main event, but imagine arriving for your 11:30am round there and being greeted on the first tee by American superstar Collin Morikawa? Picture rocking up to hit a bucket of balls on the range and having 2013 Masters champ Adam Scott straighten you up? At the time of writing, no confirmation had come from the PGA Tour regarding the host nation for the 2028 Presidents Cup. A few days earlier, Australian Golf Digest broke the story that negotiations between the tour and the Victorian Government were progressing well. In a future world of post-COVID sports entertainment, where the novelty of golf has probably worn off and rival tours continue to flex their financial muscles, what better way for the PGA Tour to make a meaningful statement – not a PR stunt – than to actively engage with the very people the sport’s future depends on? 

Sandy Jamieson, the country’s undisputed No.1 campaigner for public golf and head pro at Oakleigh Golf Course, just 20 minutes down the road from Sandy Golf Links, concurs.

“The truth is, the majority of people involved in golf, whether they be the tour commissioner or the best player in the world, started on a public golf course which was subsidised by a local government to give everyone the opportunity to play,” Jamieson says. “To this end, it shouldn’t be a hard sell to get those with the power to move the needle to get back to their roots and get amongst the people. Imagine if Tiger Woods said your local course was a heap of fun to play? Unfortunately, the nursery of the game often gets overlooked, which is a shame when so many owe it so much.” 

A question asked all too frequently is: how can we make the Presidents Cup better? The truth is it may never reach the lofty heights of the Ryder Cup as a spectacle. Such comparisons have always been futile. What the Presidents Cup could become, however, is far more impactful on golf’s future than its big brother. The Ryder Cup will always be the coliseum of team golf. The Presidents Cup should be seen as the welcome mat. About 85 percent of the world’s population resides outside North America and Europe. That’s literally billions of first impressions there for the taking.

As the old adage goes, don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. The Presidents Cup has the power to do so much more.

[Photo by Getty Images: Daniel Pockett]