Melbourne, Australia: The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted the cancellation of a trio of Australia’s premier summer golfing gatherings – the Australian PGA Championship, Australian Open and Women’s Australian Open.
PGA of Australia Chief Executive Gavin Kirkman, ALPG Chief Executive Karen Lunn and Golf Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland confirmed all three events, which were to have been played in February 2021, won’t proceed because of the global pandemic.
“It’s unprecedented and a real blow for Australian golf and its fans,” Kirkman said. “We have collectively spent months in exhaustive consultation with all relevant authorities and our sanctioning partners to try to find a way to stage all three events safely and at that world-class level to which we’ve all become accustomed.
“But even with multiple contingency plans, it has reached a point where decisions have to be made and this, regrettably, is the one we’ve had to take.”
A raft of measures were considered – including players entering a hub and competing while serving a strict quarantine period, as well as restricting crowd numbers and movement – but all options were unviable.
“We look forward to bringing all three tournaments alive again when they return as normal for summer 2021-22,” Kirkman said.
The Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship – the feature events on the PGA Tour of Australasia – were originally slated for a late November and early December window, to be played at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath and Brisbane’s Royal Queensland, respectively.
Both were postponed in recent months in the hope a late-summer timeslot – potentially near the Women’s Australian Open – would buy time to host the time-honoured tournaments.
But the impacts of Covid-19, most notably in assembling international fields and ensuring the safety of players, spectators and officials, has forced the decision.
It will be the first time since 1945, the final year of World War II, that the men’s Open will not have been staged; it’s the first time since 1995 that the PGA will miss; and the first time since 2006 that the women’s Open will not be contested.
Sutherland said the decisions – made in consultation with staging partner SPORTFIVE – were taken with a heavy heart given the history and international significance of the tournaments.
Sutherland said: “On the advice of relevant domestic government authorities and, with consideration for the global nature of our fields and partners, the call was made with the health and well-being of the golfing community as the priority.
“The events rely on significant support from players and Tours around the world, so given current quarantine restrictions, we believe the field strength of all three events would be severely compromised. This, in turn, is unsatisfactory for spectators, broadcasters and our events’ commercial partners.”
Lunn said the decision’s timing was expedited by the needs of players and international partners, including the European Tour and LPGA Tour.
“It’s extremely disappointing when all tournament stakeholders have worked so hard to build a history and a place on busy global calendars for our flagship events here in Australia,” Lunn said.
“The Women’s Australian Open has grown from strength to strength in recent years since moving to its new home in Adelaide, and its continued success is very much dependent on the support of our leading Australian players, along with our overseas guests from the LPGA Tour who come from all corners of the globe.
“While this has been a heart-wrenching and incredibly difficult decision, logistically there are just too many variables which could put at risk the event’s fine reputation and standing.”
The PGA of Australia, ALPG and Golf Australia remain in consultation with all stakeholders about other events on the respective domestic tours this summer.