The first staging of ‘The Jack’ since the passing of the celebrity tournament’s namesake was a time for nostalgia but still plenty of celebration

 Tim Bradshaw Photography

You always finish what you start, especially if it’s your drink. That was one mantra frequently offered by Jack Newton, who passed away in April last year, but not before leaving behind a legacy underlined by a beloved charity pro-am.

Hearts were broken – not just within golf circles but across Australian sport in general – on April 14 when Newton’s death was announced by his family. Yet after eights months of both grieving and celebrating a truly great Australian, it was time to return to his favourite tournament: The Jack.

It’s become arguably the greatest party in Australian sport since its inaugural event in 1979, but the 2022 edition of ‘The Jack’ was always going to be an emotional one without Newton.

Pro golfers like LPGA Tour player Steph Kyriacou and Nathan Barbieri as well as amateur stars like Harrison Crowe descended on the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley for two rounds of pro-am golf and plenty of money-raising and festivities. Celebrities such as cricket icon Brian Lara, former tennis star Mark Philippoussis, boxer Harry Garside and rugby league royalty Wally Lewis joined in, as did a bunch of loyal sponsors and amateurs. All in attendance knew how special this one was going to be.

At the Tuesday night gala dinner, a soiree attended over the years by prime ministers, Newton’s son Clint, a former NRL footballer, summed it up best in his speech: “Dad used to tell me, you always finish what you start… particularly if it’s your drink.”

The Jack has raised more than $6 million in total for its two beneficiaries: Jack Newton Junior Golf and diabetes research.  

Clint Newton said this would not have been possible without several loyal sponsors, including A.H. Beard mattresses, Bunnings Warehouse and Club Car.

“Dad always said loyalty was a sign of strength; thank you [sponsors and guests] for your loyalty,” Newton said. “We’ll continue to do Dad proud and keep this thing going for another 43 years.”  

Clint also paid tribute to the matriarch of the family, Jackie, who he said was more than equipped to take the foundation and The Jack into the future.

“Now Dad is gone, you’re going to continue to lead us forward and you’re a pillar of strength for our family,” he said. “What you did for Dad after his [1983 plane propellor] accident, there’s no way our family could have achieved what we’ve achieved without someone like you standing beside him.”

If he were still here, Newton would have grinned ear-to-ear when Corey Lamb, now a pro after coming through Jack Newton Junior Golf, fired a 36-hole total of eight-under 134 at a firm and fast Hunter Valley Golf & Country Club to win by one shot from Nikki Barrett. Daley Loumanis was the A.H. Beard Junior Jack champion at even-par 142.

But the late Newton would have been just as chuffed seeing the quirky dress-ups, from Sandy from “Grease” to Santa Claus and even Superman and Superwoman, as well as amateurs mingling with celebrities like Lara and Lewis. Lara was more than partial to having a drink with guests on the second tee, having enjoyed a friendship with Newton over the years.

“Brian, you coming here this year means a lot to our family,” Clint Newton said, addressing the former West Indies batsman in his gala speech. “Even going and visiting Dad a couple years ago really meant a lot to him.”

But most of all, Newton – runner-up to Tom Watson at the 1975 Open Championship and to Seve Ballesteros at the 1980 Masters in his prime – would have delighted in the amateurs, men and women, competing on a level playing field. Judy Broers, the president of Yass Golf Club, won the women’s amateur side of the event with 81 Stableford points. That included holing out for birdie from a bunker on the par-4 first hole during the second round. Yass Golf Club, incidentally, has no bunkers. Nigel Black was the men’s A grade champion with 79 points, while Stewart Smith took out B grade with 81 points. Brad Garland was the C grade winner with 84 points.

Good golf and good times were had by all. Although The Jack is now without its patron, the party isn’t anywhere near over. Finishing is something you do only with your drinks at The Jack.