Australian Open Moments: The History of The Lakes Golf Club

  • The Tournament Director,
  • 13/09/2018 3:51pm

Sometime shortly before 7am on November 15 the first of 156 competitors will step to the tee and strike the opening shot of the 2018 Australian Open.

Among the golfers taking part in the nations’ most prestigious event there will be a mix of old and young, amateur and professional and experience and youth.

But, as there is in every golf tournament, there will be a 157th player in the field that week, one that carries no clubs and will take no swings.

The courses upon which tournaments are staged always play an integral part in the competition and at The Lakes, the field will face a layout that has been witness to some of the best in the history of the game.

Celebrating its 90th year in 2018 The Lakes Golf Club, and its famed course, has been an integral part of Australian golf, and the Australian Open, for most of its life.

The club began in 1928 on its current site, the course laid out by former Australian Open champion Tom Howard and pioneering course architect and former Australian amateur winner Eric Apperly.

While it was 1964 before The Lakes hosted its first Australian Open title there was important golf played at the course long before with the then richest tournament in the world, The Ampol, played there five times between 1948 and 1954.

Strutting the fairways of The Lakes over those years were such legendary names as Lloyd Mangrum, Jack Burke and Jimmy Demaret as well as local heroes Kel Nagle, Peter Thomson and Ossie Pickworth.

In 1963, the year before Jack Nicklaus won his first Australian Open at The Lakes, he finished runner-up to Arnold Palmer at the Wills Masters at the course and 10 years later Lee Trevino claimed the Chrysler Classic there.

In fact, Americans have always seemed to have an affinity with The Lakes, Curtis Strange capturing the inaugural Greg Norman International there in 1993.

But it isn’t just international stars who have tasted success here, Norman von Nida capturing the first of three Australian PGA titles contested at The Lakes when he won in 1950.

The tournament was still matchplay at the time and von Nida accounted for Eric Cremin by a comfortable 6&5 margin.

Two of the game’s then young guns staged one of the most thrilling battles in memory in 2001 when Aaron Baddeley defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff for the final Greg Norman International.

It was a controversial week at The Lakes, Garcia assessed a two stroke penalty following his third round for taking an incorrect drop on his first hole of the day.

From thinking he held a two shot lead over Baddeley heading to Sunday the Spaniard instead was tied and after both shot final rounds of 67 he lost in extra time.

Adding to the controversy was Greg Normans role in Garcia’s drop, the tournament host playing alongside the youngster and giving Garcia the thumbs up for his actions despite a rules official not being present.

The Lakes course the players will face in this year’s Australian Open is the third iteration of the layout.

The construction of the airport freeway in 1968 saw the course cut in two with American course architect Robert von Hagge, a design partner with Australia’s Bruce Devlin, make major changes to account for the new road.

In 2007 another renovation and redesign project by the Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead firm gave us the course we see today and the one which the field will face this year.

Fittingly, Ogilvy won the first Australian Open played at the new course in 2010 while Greg Chalmers held off a spirited charge from Tiger Woods in the 2011 tournament.

2012 saw a 53-year-old Peter Senior lift his second Stonehaven Cup in foul Sunday weather over a field mostly half his age.

It was just one of many remarkable moments in the history of one of Sydney’s most prestigious and highly regarded courses but with the Australian Open returning in November, it is guaranteed not to be the last.

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