By Chris Vogt
IT IS reasonable to assume that a golf club pitching for a significant tournament will be prepared for what awaits should they be selected. The reality can be somewhat of a revelation. But at Kingston Heath, they’ve been there, done it. This club knows what they have to offer, and what it takes to deliver.
For one, the golf course is close to perfect. “We knew our course was not an issue,” said Club Captain Peter Clark, when asked about preparation for such an event. “Twelve months out, our wonderful Superintendent put a maintenance and improvement plan together, but in essence, there wasn’t much more than tweaking, such is the quality of the layout.”
General Manager Gregg Chapple (pictured above) concurred: “We were chosen as the tournament venue for several reasons, not least of which is our course. When I spoke with (US PGA Tour Commissioner) Tim Finchem this week, he thanked me for allowing the PGA to stage their event here. That says a lot.”
Melbourne’s unusually long and wet winter put pressure on course presentation as the World Cup neared, but the standard is exceptional. Several club members, however, have proudly mentioned that it will be even better next month. No one would argue.
Kingston Heath’s members have been on board since their club was awarded the event. They knew there’d be intrusive infrastructure, crowds and course closure for a period, yet they’ve embraced it with enthusiasm.
“Almost without exception, our members love having a major event here”, said Clark. Many have joined the volunteer team for the tournament itself, and others will simply soak it up and be a key part of the Kingston Heath welcome that we hope visitors feel.”
Chapple agreed that the club’s members play an unofficial yet crucial role in the experience felt by players, officials and paying customers.
“Our staff are at the front line when it comes to the welcome, but the members buy into it and carry it on through the week.” It is, after all, their club.”
The General Manager has had regular dealings with both the PGA and IMG, and the working relationship has been both respectful and collaborative.
“Both those organisations have their expectations”, admitted Chapple, “and we have ours, too. Demands on all sides have been reasonable and there’s been a feeling of working for the common good.”
So why take it on?
Both Chapple and Clark spoke of international exposure, a potential spike in membership and corporate days, as well as an increased social media presence. But in the end, they brought the answer back to their people:
“Our Members like it! It also challenges our ground and hospitality staff. The flow-on from that is a raising of the already high standards which our Members currently enjoy. This will always be a Members’ Club.”