08 Feb 2021 | National Championships |

Kooyonga set-up goes next level

by Mark Hayes

Not a blade of grass or grain of sand seems out of place at Kooyonga in today's practice round.
Not a blade of grass or grain of sand seems out of place at Kooyonga in today's practice round.

#AusAm live scoring here

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Jackson Bugdalski is not an agronomist, nor a household name.

But the young Sydneysider has been a good golfer for years now and has sufficient experience to have become a graduate of the University of Oklahoma.

When his approach shot to the 17th at Kooyonga faded right in today’s practice round for this week’s Australian Amateur Championship, he caught a break when his ball nestled in a swale between water and rough.

“This is the best grass I’ve ever seen,” he said in pure admiration of the little green patch of heaven from which he would play his next shot.

And that really summed it up.

A section of this storied course that might not see a pair of Footjoys this week was so pristine that it even moved a bloke who could just as easily have been angry for even being there.

Kooyonga, which on Saturday officially opened its redesigned clubhouse, would – in any “normal” year – this week be playing host to the LPGA Tour and the Women’s Australian Open.

But if there’s one pandemic positive for any of the young golfers who are visiting Adelaide this week, it’s that they get to play a course about which even grizzled set-up men such as Golf Australia’s tournament director Trevor Herden can’t help but rave.

“The quality of presentation of the golf course is among the best I’ve ever seen,” said Herden, a stalwart of tournament golf in Australia for decades.

It’s an absolute credit to both the progressive officials and the membership at Kooyonga that they’ve opened the course up to the land’s top emerging talent this week.

They could so easily have packed up their mowers and hedge clippers and shut up shop when the Women’s Australian Open was cancelled.

But as superintendent Richard James pointed out as the final touches went on the course today, the Aussie Amateur has provided his talented staff with quite the fallback position.

“We obviously had it in mind to prepare for the Open, but when that didn’t eventuate, we were always going to present the course in a good manner for the membership,” James said.

“But it was a bonus when Golf Australia brought this event here and gave us this opportunity to showcase it. It’s always good to bring the course up to as high a level as we can.”

James is far too modest – and been asked enough questions by annoying journos – to say something headline grabbing in comparison to other courses or seasons.

But when he says he’s “pretty chuffed” with the fairways and that the “greens are right where I want them”, that’s superintendent code for “this place is mint”.

“I think with something on the end of it (a tournament for which to prepare), you always do that little bit extra, but as good as you could have had it otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone to this extent,” he said.

“To have an event such as this is a real bonus … I hope people enjoy it.”

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