When the 2021-2022 ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia began in December, there were no guarantees that it would play out in its entirety.
This week’s Tailor-made Building Services NT PGA Championship is the 14th and final event of the season, a season that has taken courage, belief and hard work behind the scenes to bring to fruition.
It has also required a great deal of flexibility and dexterity to overcome the numerous obstacles thrust in its path.
Border restrictions established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the two events in Western Australia, the NT PGA and the cancellation of the Australian Open, New Zealand PGA and NZ Open for the second consecutive year.
Dates were adjusted and new events were added so that Australia’s up-and-coming male and female golfers were provided opportunities to expand their tournament golf experience.
Perhaps the biggest risk was the decision to proceed with the $1 million Fortinet Australian PGA Championship in conjunction with the inaugural Australian WPGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club in mid-January.
COVID protocols remained strict, players from both events tested positive in the days prior and were forced to withdraw yet by Sunday night, Jed Morgan and Su Oh had completed historic wins in front of rapturous galleries revelling in the chance to see tournament golf again.
“When we committed to the Australian PGA and WPGA championships there was still a great deal of uncertainty regarding travel between states, never mind international borders,” says PGA of Australia tournaments director in Australasia, Nick Dastey.
“There is a lot of money invested in the weeks and months prior to these events which could have gone down the drain at any moment if there had been a ‘snap’ lockdown called or border closures reinstated.
“I am immensely proud of our organisation and all of our host venues and partners for continuing to take courageous decisions on that front and of our PGA team for their ability to deliver the events under difficult circumstances and rolling with any obstacles thrown in their way.”
If getting through COVID protocols wasn’t enough there were also floods to contend with in New South Wales which forced TPS Sydney, TPS Hunter Valley and the Golf Challenge New South Wales Open to all be reduced to 54-hole tournaments.
Given the rain that fell, that tournaments could be completed at all was testament to PGA Tour of Australasia staff and the course maintenance crews at each of the host courses.
Yet for all of the struggles there have been significant moments of triumph.
The Webex Players Series added two new events in the Hunter Valley and Murray River, Hannah Green’s victory at Cobram-Barooga Golf Club creating worldwide headlines.
The National PGA Classic was a late addition following the cancellation of the NZ Open, the Queensland PGA Championship found a new home at Nudgee Golf Club and players were able to contest Order of Merit events in WA for the first time since October 2019.
And underpinning it all was the announcement on the eve of the Australian PGA Championship that the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit would earn playing opportunities on the DP World Tour and Korn Ferry Tour in the US.
“There’s no question that the context of our season changed following that announcement at Royal Queensland,” Dastey adds.
“To extend our strategic alliance with both the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour gave our players direct pathways to the two largest golf tours in the world.
“Three players on Sunday night will be awarded status on the DP World Tour for the 2022-2023 season and the top five will have the opportunity to contest the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying school at the end of the year.
“We’ve since been able to confirm DP World Tour co-sanctioning for both the Australian PGA and Australian Open later this year and increased prizemoney which gives our players greater opportunities to play their way onto the world stage.”
ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit (through WA Open)
1. Jediah Morgan $190,408.77
2. Blake Windred $125,285.83
3. Andrew Dodt* $111,230.70
4. Dimitrios Papadatos* $110,261
5. Anthony Quayle $97,217.33
6. Louis Dobbelaar* $96,691.10
7. Aaron Pike* $93,480.83
8. Brad Kennedy $85,985
9. Jarryd Felton $78,775
10. Daniel Gale* $77,901.88
* In the field for NT PGA Championship