Beware, a Blitz is coming

Posted by on January 08, 2019  /   Posted in golf news

Former Vic Open champion Stacey Peters is coming during her Blitz Golf introduction on Curlewis. Photo: CURLEWIS GOLF CLUB

The evolution of the Australian tournament golf – and its audience – took a number of groundbreaking steps in the weekend.

In two states the second and third edition of Blitz Golf played out to generous and involved crowds.

For clarity, Canberra golf machine Matt Millar won the men's crown at Curlewis in sweltering conditions on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula on Friday. The PGA of Australia-professionals then picked up and rode westward across the border to Glenelg on Sunday, when the new pro Zach Murray won the victory

But unlike your average golf tournament or story, this is not really about the final result of a men's event alone.

On Friday, the young Melburnian Montana Strauss won her first event as a professional, while Blitz Golf expanded her range to the ALPG Tour for the first time.

And more importantly, the revolutionary "tournament in a day" format took all the action – including simultaneous amateur events in both Victoria and South Australia – for an audience that is not rusted on more traditional events.

Around the clubhouse district of both clubs, players ran through fog machines and were introduced as rock stars by an MC who employed spectators all day long with information coming off the track while the spectators devoured the products of food wagons and local wineries while listening to music .

It is golf, but not as we know it.

The format is equally funky.

The field is split into two "sides", each of which plays a nine to eliminate the bottom half. Those who carry on do the same thing about six holes on the other side of the track than the first one that was played. Again, the field is halved with another cut for the last three holes that have not been played yet.

Throughout the day the bindings are broken by chipping to a short play-off hole with those closest to the pin.

And so it all comes to a gripping finale with the top two players from one of the "sides" between the four players in a sudden death shootout on a hole that ends at the clubhouse to ensure a "stand finish".

Fans were glowing in their assessment of events, the second of which was the second time last weekend that visited Glenelg, which had hosted the initial Blitz Golf last April.

The extreme weather of Friday undoubtedly kept further away, but still 700 people liked what they saw on Curlewis, which also had a generous gallery in the club facility of the club for a warm-up event the night before. Estimates put Sunday's crowd at double that number.

The consensus among many in the crowd was that the pace of the event was encouraging, the atmosphere energetic and length "about good".

It is logical, especially among a holiday group, that very few – let alone families – can spend the time or energy on following a golf tournament for four days.

But with activities for children, improvised coaching clinics of eliminated professionals and smaller competitions around putting greens and the tie-breaker hole, there is enough to entertain a younger audience for the only afternoon needed to play Blitz Golf.

So what about the players? Is it a bridge too far to have sound, color and movement – not to mention the intoxicating flavors of local food and wine – that spread over the course?

Millar, a veteran with a high status among his PGA colleagues and no less an authority than to finish second in the Order of Merit of 2018, glowed in his assessment of the Blitz as a "fantastic concept".

"I'm not sure if you're changing your big tournaments, you need a tradition," Millar said.

"But for every event like this or" Super Sixes ", to get the community out and see it, I think it's a great introduction for people to play golf.

"The new events that come on board should be a mix of sizes, especially in Australia, I do not think we'll continue selling those we've traditionally sold, and the men and women together at the Vic Open is a great example … by getting people together and generating a discussion point that interests new people

"But all these things that we have introduced, whether they are via Golf Australia or the PGA, I think we are a winner (as a country).

"You have played the European Tour in Belgium this year Sixes and I do not see it take too long before it also ends up on the PGA Tour.

"For various formats we (Australia) are leading and it is great to see – golf needs it."

And what about talking in the locker room?

"They also love it," Millar said.

"It's great to see people here and be happy, have a bite to eat and have a quiet drink, that's the direction we need to take to get more people and a more varied number of people in tournaments.

"More music, maybe people feel more relaxed, maybe even more with a drink or two, and I think it's great."

It is easy to see why there are plans to add another number of locations for Blitzes next summer – and maybe an international one.

Welcome to the latest addition to the next generation of golf tournaments.

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