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06 Dec 2022 | Australian Open |

Fans flock to history making ISPS HANDA Australian Open

by Australian Golf Media

Fans gathered around the first tee as Grace Kim teed off on Sunday.
Fans gathered around the first tee as Grace Kim teed off on Sunday.

The world-first ISPS HANDA Australian Open was a hit with Aussie golf fans, with more than 50,000 spectators lining the fairways at Victoria and Kingston Heath golf clubs across the four rounds.

More than 200,000 fans also tuned in across the country to watch the likes of Australian stars Cameron Smith, Minjee Lee, Adam Scott and Hannah Green in action on Channel 9, 9Gem, Fox Sports and Kayo Sports.

Fans were treated to a thrilling finish as DP World Tour star Adrian Meronk, AIG Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai and number one ranked WR4GD player in the world, Kipp Popert triumphed for the first time in the men’s, women’s and All Abilities competitions respectively.

Meronk put an exclamation mark on his performance with an eagle at the last to win by five shots from his boyhood idol Adam Scott, while Englishman Popert stormed home with a three-under final round to win by seven shots.

Buhai on the other hand held her nerve with a par at the final hole to win by a shot from two-time major champion Jiyai Shin.

Australian trio Hannah Green, Grace Kim and Minjee rounded out the top-five in the women’s and in addition to Scott coming runner-up, Min Woo Lee and Haydn Barron booked their tickets to the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool next year with their top-five finishes.

South African born Buhai said she loved returning to Australia to soak in the atmosphere generated by the crowds cheering for their heroes.

“I think it’s been fantastic,” Buhai said. “Obviously we benefit by getting the crowd because they’re here to see the big Aussie players and we get to benefit from that.

“I think where this has often been touch and go is with the set up, but I think they got the course set up really good this week. It was pretty fair.”

Following a top-ten finish in the DP World Tour last season, Poland’s Meronk agreed with his fellow champion and hopes to be a part of this style of event more often.

“I think it’s a good idea to combine these three tournaments,” he said. “I think it’s entertaining for crowds as well, to see them at the same time, at the same golf courses, same set ups, so I think it’s a good idea and I think there should be more tournaments like that.”

Spectators swarmed around the 18th green to catch the winning moments.
Spectators swarmed around the 18th green to catch the winning moments.

Golf Australia chief executive James Sutherland shared the winners’ sentiments and was delighted by the response from eager golf fans after the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the national Open from going ahead in 2020 and 2021.

“We can see from the crowds that it has been fantastically well received by the Melbourne public and also people who have travelled from all over to be here,” Sutherland said.

“It’s been a brilliant atmosphere all week. We are staging a golf tournament but we are also staging an event that has fans engaging with the game and growing their love and appreciation for golf.

“When I consider where we’ve come from in bringing this event back under the management of Golf Australia, and to bring the men and women together, also with the co-sanctioning of the DP World Tour for the first time for us, I’m incredibly proud.”

The success of the Vic Open, which has had men and women playing on the same course at the same time for the past decade, paved the way for the format to be utilised in a national championship for the first time anywhere in the world.

That groundbreaking step ensured that people from around the globe had their eyes on Melbourne this week and despite the positive feedback, Sutherland is already looking ahead to improving the format.

“It ticked a lot of boxes but not for one moment am I suggesting that there isn’t room for improvement and we’ll work through an exhaustive process of taking feedback from stakeholders,” he said.

“We look forward to making a bigger and better event next year. These sorts of events can’t be planned or thought of without an understanding that we have our partners behind us.

“When we floated the idea of putting the men’s, women’s and All Abilities together across two golf courses, the resounding response from our commercial partners and government partners was super positive. All of the conversations I have had with them this week have only reinforced, if not amplified, their support.

“While that’s critical, we also need to ensure that we provide a contest that is befitting to our national opens and we’ll ensure we work with players and all of our co-sanctioning tours to get that right.”

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