Noel Ratcliffe.
Noel Ratcliffe.

Seniors to turn it on

WITH plenty of good weather and the Byron Bay Golf Course in top shape, the 2009 Fiducian Legends Australian PGA Seniors Championship is set to put on a great show next month.

Already, there are some big names on the bill, including defending champion Noel Ratcliffe, former British PGA Champion Rodger Davis, past champion Mike Ferguson, former Australian Open champion Peter ‘Chook’ Fowler, Mike Harwood and Peter Senior.

Byron Bay Golf Club captain and tournament director Mark Wilson said everything was on track for the big event held December 18 to 20.

“The course is looking terrific, and we’ve got a stellar cast again,” he said.

“We’re still hoping to get Wayne Grady, but we haven’t heard back from him yet. It would be good if we got everyone we wanted.”

Executive officer for the PGA NSW/ACT division, Melville Proud, agreed the course and player list were in good shape.

“The course looks like it will be better than last year, and from a PGA perspective the golf course is a true championship test and the club goes to a lot of trouble each year to maintain it to a high standard,” he said.

“It is a national championship with a strong field of players and a lot of public interest, and there isn’t another championship event where amateurs get to play with the professionals.”

Wilson expects around 90 professional players to be in the competition, with nominations closing on Sunday, November 27.

According to Wilson, a further ‘110 to 120’ spots in the competition were available to amateur players when nominations open on November 21.

However, while a field of around 200 golfers are expected to converge on Byron Bay for the event, sponsorship issues mean this could be the last time the event is held at the Bryon Bay Golf Club.

“We’re still not certain if this is the last time or not,” Wilson said.

“But even if the tournament does go to Sydney we will still have a major tournament here.”

Proud said the move from Byron to Sydney was ‘purely about sponsorship’.

“It’s a very popular event with our players, and the Byron Bay Golf Club has been a great host,” he said.

“You never know what can happen; the sponsors might like it so much they’ll keep it there.”

Wilson said they still had ‘very good commitment’ from existing sponsors, and was sure there would be another seniors event held there in the future, even though they were ‘not sure what the title will be’.

“All the players are disappointed about the move to Sydney, they love it here,” he said.

“And it’s not just a Byron Bay event, it’s a North Coast event. People don’t get to see them in action unless they go to metropolitan areas.”

Wilson said he would be playing in the event again for the third year it has been held in Byron.

“It’s going to be good, and I’m looking forward to playing in it,” he said.

“You’re never too old to play golf.”

The tournament will be staged over 54-holes (no cut) and offers $80,000 in prize money.

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