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Norman von Nida, Kel Nagle, Gary Player, Bill Dunk, Bruce Devlin, Hale Irwin, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Peter Senior, and Robert Allenby. What do all these names have in common?  All were winners of the Australian PGA Championship.

The Australian PGA concluded at Coolum this weekend in exciting fashion as Greg Chalmers added his name to the list of champions by defeating Robert Allenby and Marcus Fraser in a playoff.  Having watched a bit of the tournament after enjoying the President’s Cup thoroughly, I thought it would be fun to dig a bit deeper into the history of this Australian major.

The “Early Era” of the championship, defined as 1905 – 1945, saw a host of Scottish born winners including Carnegie Clark and Dan Soutar, the continent’s first golf professionals.  Charlie Campbell became the first Australian born champion in 1911 at Royal Sydney.  Joe Kirkwood (whom I had never heard of before reading through the attached historical summary) won in 1920 and later developed one of the first “trick shot” exhibitions in which he would hit a slice and hook that (nearly) collided mid-flight and hit balls teed up in women’s mouths. Here’s  a great shot of Charlie Campbell (second from left) and Carnegie Clark  (second from right) working on their gear in 1908.

The “Match Play Era”, defined as 1946 and 1964, saw Norman von Nida (The Von) assert his dominance, taking the title in 1946, 1948, 1950, and 1951.  Club pro Col Johnston won the even in 1963 and defended successfully in 1964 shortly after having one eye removed due to infection.

The “International Era” (1965-1995) saw an influx of global professionals but Australia still found plenty of homegrown champions. Kel Nagle, Bill Dunk, and Bruce Devlin all won multiple times between 1965 and 1971. Nagle’s win in 1968 was particularly memorable as the big three of golf, Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player, were all in the field.  Nagle beat Nicklaus by 6, Palmer by 17, and Player by 18.  The 1980′s saw Euro Ryder Cup Legends Seve Ballesteros and Sam Torrence collect victories along with Hale Irwin, Mike Harwood (who got a mention in this PGT post), Greg Norman, and Peter Senior.

In summary, I found a much more interesting and historically rich event history than I expected.  There are many more stories and bio-features in this great e-book produced by the Australian PGA so I strongly encourage you to download and browse the details at your convenience.  I learned a lot about Australian golf this season and look forward to these events next year.  Certainly this is an event that showcased the best in traditional golf and the list of champions is testament to the great differentiation capabilities of Australian golf courses.  There are no fakes on the winners list.

Golf’s Great Walks – 100 Years at the Australian PGA Championship (1.35mb)





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