DENIS DALE lays out the fabulous opportunities available in 2016 for senior amateur golfers in Australia. What’s on, when, where, and how you can get involved, even if you are not a low marker.
By Denis Dale
2015 was definitely a great golfing year but the more exciting news is the fantastic calendar of events and courses available for Australia’s senior amateur golfers in 2016. Many of Australia’s Top 100 courses are included providing Australian senior golfers with the enviable task of choosing just which great course and event they will play.
The Australian Senior Ranking Competition
Now entering its eleventh year the Australian Senior Ranking competition provides top-level golf for seniors who are ready to travel across the country to compete at the highest level. Beginning in 2006 when it was called the Australian Senior Order of Merit the Ranking System in 2016 will include 17 events across every state and territory.
Who can play in National Ranking Events?
You need to be 55 years or older on the first day of the event being played. While some of the events have handicap restrictions there are others without any handicap limit. All entry forms contain this information.
The Australian Senior Amateur, the Royal Melbourne Classic, the National Masters and the NSW Senior Classic are very popular and a handicap ballot may be required. The best policy is to enter and wait to see if a ballot is needed.
Entry in the Australian Senior Matchplay Championship is open to any senior golfer who has played at least one ranking event during the preceding 12 months.
How does the Ranking Points System work?
The Golf Australia web site has full details on the Senior Ranking System. While each senior ranking event stands alone with prizes awarded in both scratch, age and handicap divisions ranking points are awarded to all players at the conclusion of the tournament.
The number of competitors from inside the Top 20 on the Senior Ranking Table is used to calculate a tournament rating. A higher rating event means a higher number of points. The highest rated event is the Australian Senior Amateur with an automatic Level 6 rating with other events achieving a level 3, 4 or 5.
A table of ranking positions and points is available on the AUSOOM website (www.ausoom.com).
When are the Ranking Points used?
At different times during the year various national senior teams are selected using the Golf Australia Rolling 12 Months points table as a basis for this selection.
Using a rolling 12-month table ensures selection is based on performance over the previous year. As events are played the old event drops off e.g. points gained in the 2015 Australian Senior Amateur Championship will remain current until replaced when the 2016 Australian Senior Amateur Championship is played.
A 12-man Australian Senior team has already been selected to travel to New Zealand in February 2016 to challenge the host country for the Sanctuary Cove Trophy. The next match will be held in Australia in 2017.
A six-man team to represent Australia in the 2016 Asia Pacific Championships in the Philippines will be selected after the 2016 South Australian Senior Amateur Championship in September.
A 12-man Golf Australia Senior team will be selected for a match against the Australian Defence Forces Golf Association in April. Selection in the team is based on current rankings although any senior who represented in the previous Sanctuary Cove or Asia Pacific teams is ineligible. This policy ensures at least 24 seniors are rewarded with major team selection each year.
At the end of each ranking year Golf Australia medals are awarded to those seniors in the top three positions in the overall scratch, the over 65 section and in the handicap competition.
How do I enter a National Ranking event?
Entry forms are always available on the AUSOOM website (www.ausoom.com) and can also be found on Golf Australia and various state golf organisation’s web sites.
Although many of Australia’s best senior golfers will be competing you do not have to be a low marker to play and enjoy the competition and the friendships that will soon be made. If you have thought about playing in one or more of these senior events then why not make 2016 the year to put the plan into action.
What events are on in 2016?
The National Ranking year runs from November to October meaning the first event for the 2016 year has already been played. The 2015 ACT Senior Championship was played in November on three courses – Queanbeyan, Gungahlin Lakes and Federal. This was the first year for the Queanbeyan course and all players enjoyed the challenge of this well conditioned and interesting layout.
After another close finish NSW senior Greg Ellis joined a small group that have won successive national level events. After winning the Victorian Senior Amateur Championship in October Ellis again played wonderful golf to win the ACT title a few weeks later. In a drama filled day at Federal Golf Club Ellis began with a one stroke overnight lead and would eventually win by the same margin..
Runner-up was Victorian Greg Rhodes who once again demonstrated his class with great tee-to-green golf but he had no luck at all with the putter. His second place finish did extend his lead in the national rankings and he is now the dominant number one senior golfer in Australia.
The 2016 Royal Melbourne Senior Classic was played on January 20-22 using each of Royal Melbourne’s famous layouts, the West Course (number 1 in Australia), the East Course (6) and the world renowned Composite Course. This was the fourth playing of the event and as could be expected the opportunity to play these three layouts coupled with the outstanding organisation of the tournament is attracting hundreds of golfers from across Australia and New Zealand.
A ballot was needed to reduce the large list of entries and a record low handicap of 3.5 was the cut off number. The winner was not known when this story was prepared but a full report will be in next month’s magazine and is currently available on the AUSOOM website.
February will see many of Australia’s leading senior amateurs heading to New Zealand.
The 2016 New Zealand Senior Amateur Championship will be played at the Paraparaumu Beach course from February 11-14. Regarded by many as one of the greatest links courses in the southern hemisphere, Paraparaumu is a world-renowned layout just outside Wellington and has hosted the New Zealand Open twelve times. Thirty Australians have entered the championship, easily the highest number of overseas representatives in the event’s history.
Following immediately after the New Zealand Senior Championship is the annual Australia vs New Zealand event for the Sanctuary Cove Trophy. This tournament rotates between each country and in 2016 will be played at the Royal Wellington Golf Club.
Once again a 12-man team of Australians will be playing the Kiwis in this Ryder Cup format competition. The Kiwis have now established a clear lead having won six of the nine years this event has been played. In 2016 a strong team will be representing Australia with team captain Tony Kennings confident of winning back the trophy.
The third national senior ranking event on the 2016 calendar is the 2016 Tasmanian Senior Amateur starting on February 10 at Mowbray Golf Club in Launceston. Mowbray has been the home of this event for many years and is always good test of golf.
The defending champion is NSW senior golfer Stefan Albinski who has won this event 5 times. In 2015 Albinski improved every day and his rounds of 75-73-71 gave him a six-stroke margin over local Mowbray member Michael Leedham. Both Albinski and Leedham have won this championship five times although Tasmanian legend Max Robison holds the record with 8 titles between1995 and 2003.
March begins with usy month with the 2016 NSW Senior Amateur to be played on the Bermagui and Narooma courses on NSW’s beautiful south coast. Golf NSW is again using two courses to ensure that all who nominate for this popular event will get a start.
The popular Bermagui course was the venue for the 2011 NSW Senior Amateur Championship when Queenslander Peter King won in a play-off. The seaside Narooma course is rated inside the Top 100 Australian courses. The combination of these two courses will ensure that the 2016 champion is a worthy one.
The defending champion is Victorian Greg Rhodes who won his first national event in 2015 with a great display of golf finishing a combined six under par on the Duntry League and Serviceman’s courses. He finished eight strokes ahead of local champion Robert Payne.
March is the usual month for two West Australian events – the WA Senior Amateur and the Lake Karrinyup Senior Classic. At the time of writing Golf WA has advised that although the West Australian Seniors is currently scheduled for April 6-8 at Melville Glades Golf Club there is a possibility that this date will be changed.
The defending champion is WA senior Martin Minogue who won at Royal Fremantle in 2015 bringing to an end a run of six successive titles by NSW senior Stefan Albinski.
Golf WA have also advised that their traditional secondary event, the Lake Karrinyup Senior Classic, will not be played at this course. A decision on the new venue and date is also not yet available. All senior golfers are advised to use the Golf Australia or AUSOOM website for the latest information on these two events.
Each year, a 12-man Golf Australia Senior Team contests a match against the Australian Defence Forces team. This year The National Golf Club on the Mornington Peninsula will again host the event that begins on April 4.
The event will be played on the Ocean Course (rated 47) over two days, with foursomes and four-ball matches on day one, and singles matches on day two. The event was first played in 2007 and last year the Golf Australia Senior Team recorded a convincing 16-8 win over the ADFGA team.
This event is a must do for those who get the opportunity to play as the ADF guys are a great bunch of our finest Aussies. The competition is keen with both teams looking for victory but it also a great opportunity for senior golfers to share some time and stories with our defence force personnel.
Golf doesn’t get any better than a round of each of the three courses at The National Golf Club on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The 2016 National Masters begins on April 12 and is played over all three of The National’s championship courses – The Moonah (number 9 in Australia), The Old (17) and The Ocean (47).
The defending champion is local member John Wheeler who played some outstanding golf to record his inaugural win on the senior ranking circuit. Wheeler had led after his opening round of two under par 70 on the Moonah course and was then in second place after a round of 74 on the Old course. A determined final round of 77 on the challenging Ocean course saw him claim the title with a tournament record score of 221. Second place was shard by defending 2014 champion Barry Tippett and leading Victorian Gordon Claney.
All who play in this tournament appreciate both the magnificent courses and the outstanding tournament organisation and hospitality. This is one tournament not to miss.
Wondering what event could possibly follow a week of golf at The National? Then how about a 54-hole tournament on three courses rated well inside the countries top 100 with two of them venues for recent Australian Opens?
The tournament is the 2016 NSW Senior Classic and the three courses are The Lakes Golf Club (rated number 15 in Australia) and the venue for the 2011 and 2012 Australian Opens, The Australian Golf Club (31) and the host club for the 2014 and 2015 Australian Open and the beautiful tree lined Avondale (56) on Sydney’s north shore.
This is always a popular event and a strong field of low handicap players is ensured. The 2015 event was abandoned when some wild weather hit Sydney for a week making golf impossible. This will only make the number of entries even bigger and a high quality field of local, interstate and overseas players is certain for 2016.
Time to head north and visit Darwin for the 2016 Northern Territory Senior Amateur Championship to be played at Darwin Golf Club from May 26-29. This event is played in conjunction with the Northern Territory Amateur Championship that always attracts many of the countries best younger amateur players.
A great opportunity to visit the top-end, see some of our future champions and also compete in a 72-hole national senior ranking event on a very good golf course.
Darwin senior Tom Harold is the defending champion after his exciting one-stroke victory over Barry Tippett at Alice Springs Golf Club in 2015. With the advantage of local knowledge Harold will start as one of the favourites as he attempts to defend his title.
After two successful years as host of the Australian Senior Matchplay Championship the Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Golf Club will again host this national championship in 2016. The event will be played from June 15-17.
This is the only match-play event on the national senior circuit and as it carries a national title and many ranking points most of Australia’s top senior golfers are expected to add this event to their 2016 golfing calendar. In 2015 the field of 32 included 23 of the top 27 ranked players and every player was ranked inside the top 50.
The defending champion is West Australian Ian McPherson who needed 24 holes to defeat Queenslander Trevor Box in a drama filled final. When he holed his birdie putt on the sixth extra hole it was he only time McPherson had led all day with this victory giving him his second success in the event.
July is the month for the “Queensland Double” beginning with the 2016 Gold Coast Senior Classic starting on July 20. This event is currently scheduled for three outstanding courses – Royal Pines, The Glades and Hope Island.
The recently redeveloped Royal Pines Golf Club was the host of the 2014 and 2015 Australian PGA Championship and presents an opportunity to play the course that will again host the PGA later in 2016. Not to be over shadowed are The Glades and Hope Island. The Glades is always in immaculate condition and is currently rated at number 62 in the Top 100 courses list while Hope Island sits at number 55.
The defending champion from 2015 is New Zealander Frank Borren who defeated fellow Kiwi Michael Barltrop by three shots with Michael’s brother Rodney completing a Kiwi trifecta in finishing third. Rodney Barltrop had the best round of the tournament with his opening score of 68 (four under par and equalling his age) at Royal Pines.
Following on from Royal Pines is the 2016 Queensland Senior Amateur Championship to be played at the Bribie Island Golf Club located an hour north of Brisbane. Built on the rolling natural sand dunes of Bribie Island the 18-hole championship layout is often described as “the hidden treasure” of the south-east Queensland golf courses.
Victorian senior Ian Frost is the defending Queensland Seniors champion after his victory at Southport Golf Club in 2015. In an exciting finish it was not until the final few holes that Frost established a clear margin before finishing five strokes clear of Queenslander Sam Christie and overnight leader Barry Shannon (New Zealand).
Senior golfers have a break in August to fine-tune their game in preparation for a trip to South Australia where there will be two national ranking events in September. The first is the 2016 Grange/Kooyonga Senior Classic played September 1-2. This year the 36-hole event will again be split over two courses – Kooyonga (rated 26) and Grange (East course rated at 35 and the West at 28).
Last year Greg Rhodes continued his great form with another comfortable victory. His total of 150 gave him a six-stroke margin over veteran Vince Clark (NSW).
Beginning two days after The Grange/Kooyonga tournament is the 2016 South Australian Senior Amateur Championship beginning on September 5. At this stage the venue is still to be finalised.
In last year’s South Australian Senior Amateur Championship at Links Lady Bay Golf Club, Victorian Ian Frost continued on his winning ways with a play-off victory. Victorian Gordon Claney had charged home with a round of 69 (seven birdies) to force the play off that Frost eventually won the third extra hole.
The 2016 Australian Senior Amateur Championship is to be played in Adelaide at the Kooyonga Golf Club. (26) This is the most prestigious event for the year and as usual most of Australia’s top level senior amateur golfers will line up for a chance to take home the title.
The 2015 Australian Senior champion was Victorian Greg Rhodes who capped an outstanding year in senior golf with his victory at Manly Golf Club. After opening with consecutive sub-par rounds 69 Rhodes held on to defeat a gallant Mark Pearson (NSW) by a single stroke. West Australian Trevor Hughes was another stroke away in third place.
Rhodes will be hard to beat in 2016 but the competition will be keen as the standard of senior golf in Australia is definitely on the rise as are the number of high quality players playing in all the major events.
Following soon after the Australian Senior Amateur is the 2016 Victorian Senior Amateur Championship beginning on October 19 at Coomealla and Riverside Golf Clubs. These neighbouring clubs are located on the Murray River just three hours from Melbourne and are top quality and challenging country courses.
The early favourite is definitely Greg Rhodes, Australia’s top-rated senior golfer, as he is a member of the Coomealla club.
The winner in 2015 was New South Welshman Greg Ellis who recorded his inaugural ranking event victory at the Bright and Myrtleford courses. Ellis played wonderful controlled golf to record a final round one-over 73 and a 54-hole total of 220 to take the Championship by three strokes. Overnight leader John Banting from Royal Perth hung on well to finish second.
With the Australian Matchplay moving to June the Victorian Seniors is now the final event of the 2015-16 Senior Ranking competition. This means that medal winners for the top ranking players in the Open, Over 65 and Handicap competitions will be decided after the Victorian Seniors.
November 16-18 sees the playing of the 2016 Asia Pacific Senior Amateur Championship at the Alabang Country Club in Manila, The Philippines. A 6-man team will be selected to represent Australia in the team championship and they will be trying to improve on their third place finish in 2015. There is likely to be quite a few other Australians also make the trip to compete in the individual championship.
The new 2016-17 Australian Senior Ranking year begins with the 2016 ACT Seniors Championship to be played November 8-10 at three of Canberra’s best courses and the list is likely to include Gungahlin Lakes and Federal Golf Clubs.
In 2015 the Queanbeyan course was added to the roster and player comments indicated it would be a welcome venue if included again in 2016. The final courses will be available later in 2016.
In wonderful news for all senior golfers Golf Tasmania has added a new event to the senior golfing calendar – the Tasmanian Senior Masters.
In 2016 this event will be played at the beautiful Royal Hobart Golf Club from November 18-20. Royal Hobart was last used for a senior event in 2005 when the Australian Senior Championship was played there. There will be many mainlanders making the trip to play this top quality course with some likely to develop a golfing holiday that includes Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm and Cape Wickham.