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Morri: Vic Open A Model For Our National Champs?

(Photo: Paul Shire)
It might have been the most talked about tournament in world golf last week but should it be replicated at the national level?

The innovative Vic Open – where men and women play the same course at the same time for equal prizemoney – has perhaps exceeded even its own lofty expectations in terms of coverage.

The international exposure the 2018 event generated for host facility 13th Beach and the greater Geelong area exceeds anything even our most prestigious events can hope for.

But does that mean it can – or should – be replicated at a national level?

There are a number of barriers to such a move - not the least of them being finding a facility capable of hosting - but I believe a great opportunity exists for a one-off staging that would be a celebration of the game unlike any other seen in Australia before.

Golf Australia has already announced the men’s national championship will be hosted in Victoria in 2020 and 2022 and that opens an intriguing possibility.

The brand new short 14th hole on Peninsula Kingswood's North Course.

The newly renovated Peninsula Kingswood facility in the outer Melbourne suburb of Frankston has already been mentioned in dispatches as a possible venue and with 36 holes of world class golf it is certainly capable of handling the infrastructure required for an event of this scale.

With the Women’s Australian Open an LPGA event, the already strong field for that tournament would likely benefit from such a move while there may also be added player interest in the men’s.

But more importantly, what a boost it could be for golf in this country. The key to the success of the Vic Open is not only the innovative format but the vibe on the ground during tournament week.

Fans walk the fairways with the players and get a view of the professional game which is almost never available.

The atmosphere is upbeat and players and spectators alike clearly enjoy the laidback mood.

The Vic Open (pictured above in 2016) has continued to grow.

Can that work on a bigger scale? Probably, though with more spectators common sense may dictate more crowd control is necessary.

It’s a huge feather in the cap of the team at Golf Victoria that every year they pull off the logistical nightmare that is hosting two tournaments simultaneously.

It doesn’t seem viable to replicate that at the national level every year but there is nothing to be lost by trying it once.

Yes there are barriers (only 35 players from each side of the draw make the cut for Sunday at the Vic Open, a little light on for a national championship) but with a bit of thought and the odd compromise it could be done.

The Vic Open is one of the best golf experiences any fan could have and all things considered is the ideal sized tournament for the dual fields to work.

But to create some excitement and interest in the game, a one-off on a grander scale is definitely worth thinking about.

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