Byron remains a permanent fixture
WHILE the long-term home of the Australian PGA Senior Championship remains uncertain, one thing was clear after the tournament’s third year at Byron Bay Golf Club – the course and members have done more than enough for Byron Bay to remain a permanent fixture on the Seniors Tour.
A preference by sponsors for the Senior PGA to become a Sydney-based tournament means that while the PGA may not stay on the North Coast, the region will still be part of the tour in years to come.
Byron Bay Golf Club captain and PGA Senior Championship tournament director Mark Wilson said the club now had the runs on the board to continue hosting major tournaments.
“We’d obviously like to retain the PGA championship. But whatever happens, there will be a tournament here next year and it will be bigger and better than this year,” he said.
“There’s no doubt Byron Bay Golf Club, with a membership of 500, punches above its weight.”
Praised also flowed for the Byron Bay layout from professionals and officials on Sunday during the final round of the championship.
Australian PGA NSW/ACT executive officer Melville Proud said the club had more than held its own during the three years it had hosted the PGA.
“It’s a great course,” he said.
“And I’m not saying that because the Senior Championship is played here. I’m saying that on the basis of the layout of the golf course. It has to be rated very highly nationally.”
Mr Proud said there was nothing stopping the championship from coming back to Byron.
“If this event was worth a million dollars it would make no difference from a PGA point of view about staging it here,” he said.
“We would stage any major event here if we could raise the sponsorship.”
Byron Bay club professional Greg Stewart agreed that prize-money and sponsorship were the crucial ingredients if Byron Bay was to continue earning a solid reputation among golf administrators and professionals.
“Raising prizemoney is the key,” he said.
“The course is good enough, the players love coming here; the missing link is money.”
And while the issue of sponsorship has left question marks over the location of the 2010 tournament, Stewart said the club had done all it could at the weekend as a host.
“I think it puts us on the map as far as a golf destination goes,” he said
“When you get high-profile players like Peter Senior and Mike Harwood playing in the tournament, people take notice of that.
“The professionals have been very impressed.”
Larry Canning, who finished in a tie for second at the weekend, said the Byron layout was first class.
“It’s a really well-balanced golf course. Every hole has a feature,” he said.
“It’s a hidden gem. More people need to know about it.”
No matter what tournament the club hosts in coming years, it is likely the Byron Bay layout will soon be regarded not as ‘a hidden gem’, but simply ‘a gem’.