With apologies to Tony Abbott, no strong drink had been taken when the resident wag in our weekend fourball suggested Malcolm Turnbull would do a great job running golf.
We’re a disparate group with only one thing in common apart from horrible backswings and beer bellies honed over decades: a blissful ignorance of federal politics. But our comic batted on, usually when one or another of us was standing over a four-footer for par. We wish.
“When you look at it, there’s not much difference between what the PM’s been doing in Canberra and what he’d be doing in golf.” Do tell.
“The same-sex marriage vote is really just mixed-format golf (don’t even go there); a club GM trying to get his board to agree with his agenda is like the PM dealing with a hostile Senate; and the PGA and Golf Australia are similar to the Coalition and Labor – philosophically opposed but with the same end in sight.”
Our man clearly sees life through a simple(ton’s) golf lens. He will not be an applicant to replace the venerable commentator, Laurie Oakes, in the Canberra press gallery.
But what if Malcolm Turnbull did rule golf? With tongue firmly planted in cheek, we offer him some random advice…
Take the National Open to Canberra
Politicians are full of promises when they come into office and usually read the mood of the electorate well. Surely one of the major planks in Malcolm’s electoral golf spiel would be moving the biggest tournament in the country – the Australian Open – to Canberra.
You don’t have to watch the acclaimed ABC series “Utopia” to know playing the national championship in the nation’s capital is a natural fit, no focus groups or white papers required. The infrastructure is already there, too, with many wonderful golf courses in and around Canberra and all suitable and eager hosts.
But hang on, isn’t Malcolm from Sydney? Isn’t that his beautiful home overlooking the harbour? Didn’t his detractors dub him the “PM of Sydney” when he was in politics? And, whoops, hasn’t golf handcuffed the Open to the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a ridiculously long-term deal?
Better stay out of that one, Malcolm. Sounds a bit too political.
Malcolm has spent a lot of time ‘sweating the little stuff’ in Canberra, like whether his deputy is actually an Australian citizen and eligible to be in parliament at all. That was a bit of a setback, given that he had hammered Bill ‘Zinger’ Shorten about the dodgy citizens in his camp just a few days earlier. And just when both parties thought they had sent the Greens to Coventry on the same issue.
It is typical of politics in Canberra; more often than not it is bogged down in petty disputes and point-scoring across the two houses. Malcolm would be hoping for a bipartisan approach to golf but will soon wish he were back jousting with the Senate.
The elephant in the locker room is, and always has been, the uneasy relationship between the game’s amateur ruling body, Golf Australia, and the PGA, which governs those who play the game for a living. Adding to the uneasiness of the relationship, GA not only rules the game but owns the minds of the club members pros rely upon for their trade.
In loose terms, GA is more about protecting the rights of the rank-and-file club player and promoting the game, the ‘Labor side’ of golf to use a political analogy. The PGA is more interested in the business of golf, making a dollar out of it for their members, and is aligned with the Liberal way of thinking.
It’s all about keeping the balance of power.
One ‘Happy Family’
We reckon Malcolm should get everybody under one roof and call the happy gathering the Australian Golf Commission.
His Labor ‘mate’ in Victoria, Daniel Andrews, has mooted it and even released artists’ impressions of the building that would house the new golf entity. But so far no cigar. “Utopia” again comes to mind.
You see, certain people in the game would have to relinquish their power and influence. And you know better than most, Malcolm, that people like to keep their grip on both.
Canberra did a great thing for golf a few years back, Malcolm. It insisted the men’s and women’s amateur bodies merge under one banner if Federal Government funding was to continue. It was a sensible masterstroke and saw the birth of Golf Australia. But there ‘endeth the lesson’ when it comes to gender equality in golf.
Golf will protest until it is blue in the face, but women are second-class citizens at the majority of golf clubs. Recently, a high-profile Melbourne Sandbelt club had the opportunity to appoint a woman as its chief executive but was not brave enough to do it. Not because she couldn’t do the job but because it did not think ‘the members were ready for it’.
At most golf clubs, women still play on different days from the men. How archaic is that, Malcolm?
And you thought politics was tough!