Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy has launched a new tournament in the heart of Melbourne’s golf-starved Sandbelt region.
The Sandbelt Invitational will be played over four days on four different courses – Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Yarra Yarra and Peninsula Kingswood. And, like the popular mixed format used with great success by the Vic Open, the Sandbelt Invitational will see men, women, professionals and amateurs all tee it up in unison from December 20-23.
The announcement couldn’t have come at a better time for local professionals, who are still reeling at the Golf Australia’s decision to cancel both the men’s and women’s Australian Opens due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking with 10 News First Melbourne’s Henry Peters, Ogilvy said he had a long-term vision to make the new event rival the national Opens as Australia’s premier tournament.
“The men/women thing – I think golf has always been a bit too segregated. It’s time to get everyone back in the same pile,” says Ogilvy.
“(The Sandbelt Invitational) will be an event everyone can come to. (It will) inspire the kids to play golf, get people out there walking and come see their friends and be social. It’s just like the races or the footy – it’s more than just the game.”
Ogilvy said it wasn’t a hard sell to the four courses involved, who together have been starved of action in a region famous for holding world-class golf tournaments.
“We called a few courses and they were almost unanimously, instantaneously, ‘Yep, we’re in!’,” he said.
It’s understood the inaugural event will be a low-key affair leading into Christmas but organisers are anticipating huge growth in the years to come on the back of the satisfaction it will give both players and fans.
“It’s to give the best young kids a chance to play with more experienced players,” tweeted course architect Mike Clayton. “Great courses. Competition. Mentoring. That’s the only point of the event. The tournament doesn’t have to ‘work’ to satisfy sponsors and TV.”
That, they hope, will take care of itself.
[IMAGE: Gary Lisbon (course); Getty Images (Ogilvy)]