FORMER champions will be very thick on the ground when the Australian PGA Championship gets underway on the Gold Coast this December.
Not only will the tournament see 13 of the past 15 years of champions attending to battle for the Joe Kirkwood Cup, a number of others will also be around the RAVC Royal Pines in various capacities.
Recent champions teeing it up include Greg Chalmers (2014, 2011), Daniel Popovic (2012), Peter Senior (2010, 2003, 1989), Robert Allenby (2009, 2005, 2001, 2000), Peter Lonard (2007, 2004, 2002) and Nick O’Hern (2006).
Also joining the mass reunion of champions, but not playing, will be Ian Baker-Finch (1993) and Wayne Grady (1991, 1988) who will lead the Channel 7 commentary team for the tournament; Greg Norman (1984 and 1985) who will be presenting the inaugural Greg Norman Medal to a video-linked Jason Day during the gala dinner on the Tuesday night; and Graham Marsh (1982), the man responsible for the redesign of the Royal Pines course.
The popular Greg Chalmers will be defending the title he spectacularly won in a marathon seven-hole playoff over Adam Scott and Wade Ormsby.
However, the 18th green – and many other areas of the course – won’t look so familiar to the 42 year old this year when Marsh’s $10million upgrade is fully unveiled for the first time.
“I am really looking forward to defending my title. It was an honour to win the Australian PGA Championship for a second time last year and to go back-to-back would be a dream,” said Chalmers who is aiming to be the first player to achieve the feat since Robert Allenby in 2000 and 2001.
“I’m also really interested to see Graham Marsh’s redesign. After last year’s playoff I feel like I know every inch of that 18th but from what I have heard it will be completely different this year.”
Robert Allenby will also be back to compete in the Australian PGA Championship where he is a four time champion.
This year will be particularly significant for Allenby as he aims to tie the late Kel Nagle’s record of five Australian PGA Championship titles in what is the same year the Aussie golfing legend passed away.
“I have always been in awe of Kel’s career achievements and to be able to join him in history as having the won the most Australian PGA Championship titles would be a huge honour,” said Allenby who coincidentally lost in a playoff to Greg Chalmers in 2011 attempting to achieve the feat.
“I have gone close a few times recently and I will certainly be giving it my best shot this year.”
Chalmers and Allenby will be joined in the field by 2012 champion Daniel Popovic who won the title in fairytale circumstances during the Australian PGA Championship’s final year at Coolum.
“My parents have just moved to the Gold Coast so I am excited to have them at RACV Royal Pines Resort watching me compete as a former champion in the Australian PGA Championship,” said Popovic who was victorious in his first year on the PGA Tour of Australasia over a super star field whilst his father was battling cancer.
Meanwhile Peter Lonard, one of Australia’s most loved Tour Pros, will also be teeing up at the Championship where he holds a piece of Australian folk law as one of the only joint winners of the title, when he won in 2002 with Jarrod Moseley.
“That certainly was a unique situation and one that I am often asked about during my time competing in Australia,” recalls Lonard.
“But it’s special to win the Australian PGA Championship any way it happens, it has extra meaning for me because I learned all my golf coming through the PGA system as I never had an amateur career.”
“It’s always one of my favourite tournaments of the year.”
Tickets for the tournament are now on sale at www.ticketek.com.au with children 16 years and under admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.