Major champions and Australian greats have graced its fairways and now Rich River Golf Club will host one of the season’s strongest fields for the Play Today NSW Open.

Fifteen of the top 20 on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit will tee it up at Rich River’s East course starting tomorrow, the second time this season the tour has visited the mighty Murray River.

It is the strongest field to have gathered on the Murray for a PGA Tour of Australasia event in more than 35 years and, as the penultimate event of the season, will have a significant influence on the final Order of Merit standings.

With $400,000 in total prizemoney and 2,000 Order of Merit points to be distributed, what transpires for 72 holes at Rich River may decide which three players earn DP World Tour cards at season’s end.

And it is not the first time that Rich River has served as a gateway to Europe.

In the mid-1980s, the Rich River Classic not only welcomed the best Australian players of the day but concurrently staged the Australian PGA Seniors Championship.

That drew the likes of five-time Open champion Peter Thomson and 1969 US Open champion Orville Moody, Moody winning twice including a 10-stroke win from Sydney’s Harry Berwick in 1987.

Although its spot on the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule was short-lived, the Rich River Classic also crowned wonderful champions.

The Australian Open champion in 1982, Bob Shearer finished eight strokes clear of Ian Stanley in the maiden iteration in 1986, the likes of Rodger Davis, Mike Clayton, Steve Elkington, Mike Harwood and Ossie Moore all finishing inside the top 15.

In 1987, a first round of 10-under par 62 set Peter Senior up for a two-stroke win from Mike Ferguson, Harwood, Peter Fowler and Wayne Riley also featuring prominently on the leaderboard in a field that also boasted Roger Mackay, Peter O’Malley and American Mike Colandro, who would go on to win the New Zealand Open later that year.

Its positioning at the end of the Australasian schedule and coming before the start of the European Tour season made the Rich River Classic an attractive proposition for the tour’s best players.

It was abandoned in 1988 when its spot on the calendar was given to the ESP Open in Canberra, necessitating a change in format.

The Australian PGA Seniors Championship remained and was joined by the inaugural Australian Trainee Rich River Classic.

That championship was played at Rich River for the ensuing 34 years and gave those completing the PGA’s Membership Pathway Program an opportunity to compete for one of the world’s richest trainee prize purses.

Players this week, however, are playing for points that have the potential to change their careers.

A two-time winner already this season, David Micheluzzi has a 228-point lead from NZ Open champion Brendan Jones, the winner this week to receive 380 points.

Less than 90 points separate Andrew Martin (fourth), Tom Power Horan (fifth) and Michael Hendry (sixth) while New Zealand PGA champion Louis Dobbelaar will be looking advance even further after climbing 77 spots to 23rd by virtue of Sunday’s win.

Fresh from his reconnaissance mission to Augusta National ahead of his debut at the Masters next month, amateur Harrison Crowe [pictured] returns to defend the title he won in dramatic fashion 12 months ago.