By Golf NSW
GOLF icon Jack Newton OAM will be recognised for his contribution to Australian golf and his work with juniors by being inducted into the Sports Australia Hall of Fame this month.
The 66-year-old, who won on the US PGA Tour, also collected two NSW Opens, an Australian Open, and three European Tour titles. He famously lost the British Open in a playoff by a shot to American Tom Watson at Carnoustie in 1975, and finished runner-up to the legendary Severiano Ballesteros in the 1980 Masters.
After tragically losing his arm and right eye in an aircraft accident in 1983, Newton dedicated a lot of his time through the Jack Newton Golf Foundation to developing young talent and helping them on a path towards a professional career.
The Jack Newton Junior Golf foundation began in 1986 with the aim of introducing more young people to golf and to nurture their skills and enjoyment of the sport.
“Golf is at the stage where certainly I’m very proud,” Newton said.
“I’ve always much rather gone to a junior golf tournament over a professional one. The way kids play — ‘there’s the ball, there’s the club, just hit it’.
“The kids playing the game are incredibly refreshing.”Some of Australia’s best golfing talent has passed through the tournament, including appearances by youngsters like Karrie Webb, Adam Scott and Jason Day.
“When Jason was 16 he had the most technically talented swing of the golf club I’d seen and predicted big things for him,” he said. “I told the journo’s ‘this kid is going to be a sensation one day’ and they all laughed at me – but I have the last laugh now.”
Newton was involved with the creation of ‘Go-Go Golf’, where originally the age limit was 10-years-old. “I had fathers calling me saying ‘I have a six-year-old and all they want to do is hit a golf ball,’ I thought we have to address this,” Newton said. “Now there are kids as young as five playing nine holes. It flabbergasts me but they love it.”
The effort to get more females involved in golf has also been important to Newton’s foundation. And there’s a new youngster on the rise that Newton feels will bring even more girls to golf.
Belinda Ji is part of the foundation and at just 14 Newton declares she has “one of the best swings I’ve ever seen in junior golf.”
Newton will be inducted at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame awards night on October 13, at the Crown Palladium in Melbourne.