“It’s good to have friends in high places” – an adage that has resonated with Victorian golfers for a while now in the knowledge their general, their supreme leader, their Premier, Daniel Andrews, was making all the decisions that really matter.
You see, in its 48th Premier Victorians landed a self-confessed golf tragic. A man who spends what little spare time he gets away from office hitting golf balls at dusk or reading up on Alister MacKenzie’s philosophies on golf-course architecture.
There’s simply no stopping him when he’s feeling the groove.
Just hours after Team USA won the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne last year, Andrews snuck out with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan for a round both will never forget. He hosts his own Premiers Plate golf day each year in Melbourne. And he is always on hand to officially launch new courses or golf-related events in his beloved state. It would be a safe bet that Andrews would go to the opening of an envelope if it had a golf stamp.
If you’re still not convinced by this man’s obsession with drives of the dimpled variety, take this snippet reported by Australian Golf Digest’s Rohan Clarke recently:
Just a few months after becoming Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews attended the 2015 Vic Open with the task of presenting the trophy to the men’s and women’s winners of the hybrid event. Not content to be a ceremonial figure, Andrews was determined to follow the final groups over the closing holes at 13th Beach Golf Links on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Local hope Su Oh was one stroke behind tournament leader Marianne Skarpnord on the final hole. After blocking her drive, Oh attempted to reach the par 5 in two from a poor lie. But her ball ricocheted into a swampy hazard on the left. Some 50 people in the gallery were searching for the teenager’s ball and there in the thick of the action was the Victorian Premier. Oh made bogey 6 and Norway’s Skarpnord took the title, however it was the freshly minted Premier who was the talk of the peninsula.
“He was literally in up to his knees and it’s snake-ridden country,” says Golf Australia’s Simon Brookhouse.
“You wouldn’t go in there but it didn’t stop him looking for the ball. Not something you would normally see from a Premier and I don’t think his [security] detail were all that happy about it, either.”
Andrews’ behaviour wasn’t contrived according to Brookhouse who forged a relationship with the Premier during his previous role as chief executive officer of Golf Victoria: “What stands out above anything else is his absolute knowledge about the world game everywhere. He is the quintessential golf tragic. He knows all the great golf courses around the world, he knows all the great players and up-and-coming players and how they’re going.”
Testament to his love of the game is how Andrews has reinvigorated golf in the state of Victoria. In what can be considered an Australian first, the Andrews Labor Government campaigned on a comprehensive golf policy at the 2018 Victorian State Election. Andrews promised a combined total of almost $30 million to fund the Vic Open, build the new ‘Home of Golf’ at Sandringham and provide one-off grants to clubs across the state. On top of that, Victoria spent many more millions to stage last year’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
Many in the industry have joked that if it’s something to do with golf, there’s a good chance it will get the green light by Premier Andrews.
While golf courses in some states have remained open – some reopening – during the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Andrews, to the shock of many, hasn’t minced his words when it comes to playing golf in the Garden State. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Andrews said it was not the time to be playing his favourite hobby.
What? Mr Andrews, is that really you?
“No one likes playing golf more than I do, no one. You don’t need to play golf. You might want to play golf, but you don’t need to play golf,” he said.
“And no round of golf is worth someone’s life. That’s the key point here. I know I’m asking a lot of Victorians. I’m asking them to not partake in the things that they are passionate about, the things that they love. Everyone has got loved ones, too, and we’ve got to protect them. And no round of golf is worth someone dying.”
Cue the outrage.
It’s advice that hasn’t sat well with the thousands of Victorians craving a hit. In fact, the backlash on social media has been deafening. They can’t understand why they’re not allowed to hit the fairways when golfers in other states can. And they simply cannot comprehend it’s a directive from their man Andrews – that same cheque-signing, golf-loving politician guy that has carried the sport on his shoulders since 2014.
I think we all know the answer to that Sam but you’d think Golf Australia would be lobbying to get them open .. but problem is they agree with closure
— Steve Price (@StevePriceMedia) April 7, 2020
Every other state except USSR state of Victoria you can play golf! At my Public course club 150 men and women used to play 3x a week walk 18 kms a week ,with 500sqm of space per person on the https://t.co/TBsAOP3gIq lucky to walk 4 kms a week!
— DomJammer (@Dom_Zeppelin10) April 8, 2020
How Premier Andrews is viewed by the Victorian golfing faithful when all this is said and done will be fascinating. Regardless of which side of the debate you sit on, there can be no denying he is a leader who sticks by his guns. He made one of the most difficult calls of his life – a choice that directly affects him – that goes against the medical advice shared by other state governments. But it’s a call he firmly believes is the correct one. Ironically, it could be a decision that speeds up golf’s return to normalcy a lot earlier than first predicted. That, of course, all hinges on the nation’s ability to continue to slow the spread in its fight against Covid-19.
Until then, golf’s greatest friend in high places will have to settle for rolling more putts on his living-room floor. And like all good men of the people, he’s asking nothing more of you.