Just when golf couldn’t feel any more insulted and neglected than it already does in this country, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame steps up to the crease and goes whack!
Still trying to come to terms with Sport Australia’s investment allocations for 2018-2019, where golf received a paltry $1.6 million compared to other Olympic sports like shooting ($2.8m), canoeing ($6.3m), swimming ($12.7m) and cycling ($11.8m), our newest Major champion Hannah Green was inexplicably shunned as a nominee for “The Don” award.
Yep, just the third Aussie woman to ever win a Major championship (joining legends Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson) and a two-time LPGA Tour winner in 2019 to boot, didn’t even rate a mention in the race for Australian sport’s most prestigious honour that saw nine athletes shortlisted for the trophy. Among them, two tennis stars and two cricketers, including Australian Test captain Tim Paine, who was tasked with the job of guiding his team through the shame of the “Sandpapergate” ball-tampering scandal – a tough gig that was admirably done by Paine, but appropriate to be linked with an award named after your sport’s Messiah that “recognises the capacity to most inspire the nation” so soon? You be the judge.
Yes, such voting processes are thankless tasks, and comparing the worthiness of candidates is often difficult without denigrating the achievements of others. But make no mistake, we’re not here to belittle champions of other sports, Paine included. This is about our Hannah. How she didn’t make The Don shortlist shows a complete lack of respect, or maybe a lack of broader knowledge on the judging panel’s behalf, of a sport that does more for the health and wellbeing of its participants than most.
“No other award acknowledges the inspiration, character and intangible element called sportsmanship like the Don Award,” says Sport Australia Hall of Fame selection committee chair Rob de Castella. “It is not the best athlete or team of the year, it is so much more. It is more about the how, than the what. This is what makes us most proud of them.”
This is what makes Green’s snubbing even harder to comprehend, Mr Chair. She is the walking, talking definition of The Don Award, and she’s still only 22. What other athlete would break mid-round in the biggest tournament of their career to accept a hand-written poem from a young fan, read that poem during the closing holes, then meet up with that fan again later to thank them? What other athlete, just days after winning the biggest tournament of their career, would fly back home across the other side of the world to host junior clinics at their local club and mingle with awestruck members?
“She does every media interview, signs every autograph, always looks after sponsors and tournament officials – she’s a bloody legend and the ultimate role model in sport,” adds Golf Australia media manager Mark Hayes.
Green’s response to the controversy was predictably classy: “I’m sure this will just motivate us golfers to keep working hard and have more success in the future.”
Even tennis legend Todd Woodbridge came out swinging on Twitter: “Two tennis stars with a chance to win #TheDon tonight is brilliant. But what a joke that @hannahgreengolf has not been nominated. Wins @lpga major follows up with another victory soon after. @SportAusHoF you didn’t do your homework!”
All this does beg the question: should an award that holds so much significance allow multiple nominees from any one sport? For example, most would argue that nobody holds a candle to superstar all-rounder Elysse Perry in cricket this year, so why would any other cricketer get nominated at the expense of, dare we say it, a Hannah Green? It’s the same with golf: if it’s Hannah Green, it’s not Adam Scott, right?
Incidentally, golf hasn’t always been brushed for The Don. Scott took out the honour in 2013 after his captivating Masters triumph. Jason Day then won it in 2015, somewhat surprisingly to many, two months after he broke through for his first Major title at the PGA Championship. Does this justify or only add further confusion to the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame’s omission of Green as a finalist? Again, you be the judge.
One thing they can take credit for, however, is getting the overall winner right. Tennis sensation Ash Barty is a champion, on and off the court, and another popular winner of The Don. No arguments here. It’s just a shame that golf, forever fighting out of its weight division for a share of recognition and respect, lost out again when perhaps it has never been more deserving of it.