Melbourne based golf writer Chris Vogt visits the PGA Legends Tour at its stopover at Portsea Golf Club and finds a thriving over-50’s roadshow.
By Chris Vogt
AUSTRALIAN golfers have always punched above their weight, especially in the light of an all-too-brief domestic tour. They’ve toiled away in Europe, America and elsewhere, extracting the most from their talents before age calls time on their competing at the top level. Several of the best this country has produced now tee up on the PGA Legends Tour, which stopped this month at Portsea, on Victoria’s coast.
Tour Coordinator Andy Rogers pulls this over-50s roadshow together, with assistance from host clubs and the PGA. Having seen off the Portsea field and found a moment to share coffee, he goes on to acknowledge the support of the PGA, which handles the website, and online entries.
“The PGA really looks after its members,” says Rogers. “The host clubs are great, too. Each club underwrites its event, finding sponsors from local businesses, many drawn from club membership.”
The Legends Tour moves in state swings, March being Victoria’s turn. It takes in outer-suburban clubs, and several country stops.
“We have a great time at small clubs in the country,” boasts Rogers. “The whole town gets behind the event, to raise money and make it memorable for everyone.”
These events also raise the profile of the host club, and provide an opportunity for members to play alongside champions of Australian golf.
“That’s certainly a drawcard,” admits Rogers. “We’ve lured Grady, Senior, Harwood and others to these events. Not to mention an Open champion right here,” referring to Ian Baker-Finch, who is tackling Portsea’s back nine in the intermittent drizzle.
“Rodger Davis, too. He’s become a regular, and promotes the tour whenever he gets the chance.”
After his round, Baker-Finch concurs:
“I mention him (Davis) every time I speak at these events. He’s been supporting this tour for years.”
Rogers is in his second year with the Legends. Time spent as the professional at Eagle Ridge Golf Club was followed by a stint in golf apparel sales. He now has his sights set on growing the Legends Tour.
“It has so much potential. We ran 69 events last year, with 75-80 planned in 2016.” Rogers’ longer-term aim is to be staging three majors per year – an Open, Masters, and a PGA.
Victorian pro Lucien Tinkler is positive, too.
“This tour has legs,” says Tinkler, striding along the third fairway. “It may not grow beyond a Pro-Am tour, with the odd 3 or 4-round event thrown in, but it’s a great product for clubs to promote.”
Walking with the playing groups, the social atmosphere is tangible. Rogers says this is crucial to the success of the tour.
“The pros understand the format is about looking after the amateurs, doing their bit to make it an enjoyable day.”
This sentiment is echoed by Baker-Finch, Tinkler and others, and the amateurs are effusive in their praise for the event. Says one:
“As a golfer, the kick comes from playing with someone who sustains a high level for the entire round, as opposed to a good shot here and there like us amateurs. Being able to see the game played well, up close, is a thrill.”
Rogers sees the Legends Tour gaining strength as more pros reach their half-century and decide to give back to the game.
“Guys like Senior and IBF aren’t here for the money. They want to support the game at this level and see the tour flourish.”
The Tour also gives the less successful pros an opportunity to reunite with their tour colleagues from yesteryear. Further, there are great amateur golfers who focused on business and other interests in their 20s and 30s. They’re now coming back to the game.
With Rogers at the helm, the Legends Tour plays its part in this country’s golf calendar. As more clubs see the benefit of hosting an event, players and sponsors will come to the party. And whether you’re nearing 50 or well past it, that is great news for Australian golf.