Queenslander Peter Senior became the Australian Open’s oldest golf champion on Sunday and is the sentimental favourite to win this year’s Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola, which starts at Palmer Coolum Resort tomorrow (13 Dec).
53-years-old Senior has proven form at Coolum and has won the Australian PGA Championship twice – the last time in 2010.
He has already claimed the Australian Open-Australian PGA double once before – in 1989 and if he wins this week’s tournament at Coolum, he will be the first player to have taken the double win on two occasions.
The Gold Coast resident endeared himself to local residents last year as the defending champion, attending a Breakfast With the Stars at Coolum Surf Lifesaving Club with the prestigious Kirkwood Cup in hand and winning guests over with his down-to-earth and friendly personality.
This year’s defending Kirkwood Cup champion, Greg Chalmers will be trying just as hard to notch up a back to back win after himself completing the Australian Open – Australian PGA double win in 2011.
Regardless of who claims this year’s title at Coolum, it will sadly be the last time the Sunshine Coast plays host to the event after negotiations between the PGA and Palmer Coolum Resort broke down this week.
“We haven’t been able to reach terms with Palmer Coolum Resort, despite the best efforts of both parties,” Brian Thorburn, PGA of Australia CEO, confirmed on Tuesday.
Speculation that Coolum had lost the PGA Championship has been running hot for several weeks, and there were doubts over the weekend that this week’s tournament would even go ahead after officials locked horns with the Resort’s management over unexpected painted signage.
There were also concerns that Palmer’s 8M high T-Rex would distract players, but officials have been assured that ‘Jeff’ will be turned off during the four day tournament.
For the local community, news that they will lose their beloved event after 11 years has hit hard. Traditionally, the end-of-year Australian PGA Championship has been a celebration for golfers, residents and visitors alike.Many of the players bring their families with them to Coolum and stay on at the end of the event for a well-earned break. Time and again, golfers have given Coolum their tick of approval, claiming it as their favourite tournament venue.
For local retail and accommodation businesses, the loss of the event will deliver a tragic blow.
This week, the town is enjoying Coolum Business and Tourism’s week-long Festival of Golf in celebration of the PGA, with most accommodation houses reporting ‘No Vacancies’ for the duration of the event and beyond.
“It’s an absolute shame. We’ve had it [PGA Championship] for 11 years and now for it just to disappear like that, it’s going to be devastating for the town and the whole Sunshine Coast; it really does promote our area,” Coolum Business and Tourism President, Noel Mooney said on Tuesday.
“I can understand the PGA being very frustrated with the goings on at the Resort with the signage etcetera. They do hire the resort in order to run the PGA and they do have sponsors that they’ve got to look after and it’s just a shame.
“I think Clive Palmer has lost a very big event for us and it’s pretty hard to get an event as big as the PGA that puts us on the world stage.
“A lot of taxpayers’ money has been going into this over the last 11 years and we’ve been able to build it up. Now all of a sudden, one person has been able to take that away from us,” Mr Mooney added.
Sunshine Coast locals are being urged to help make 2012 a year to remember and get along to what will be the Australian PGA Championship’s last hurrah in the region.
PGA of Australia CEO Brian Thorburn confirmed that the event would remain in Queensland, but just where it would be staged in 2013 is unknown.
The Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola runs from Dec 13-16 at Palmer Coolum Resort.
Tickets and detailed event information can be found at www.championship.pga.org.au.