AUTHOR

OBGOLF

11 August 2017

Australia’s magical Top End prepares for NT PGA Championship – presented by Cazalys Palmerston.

12 months ago, NSW golfer Jordan Zunic took another important step in his young professional career by securing a two-stroke victory in the inaugural Northern Territory PGA Championship at Darwin’s Palmerston Golf Club.

The 24-year old’s emotions at the presentation ceremony were evidence to all and sundry of the importance of the moment in his young career, after an opening seven-under par 64 on Thursday set him up for a ‘wire-to-wire’ performance over a chasing pack.

It was the first time Zunic had led from start to finish to win an event, in stark contrast to the dramatic finish at the 2015 NZ Open, when he stuck a short-iron in close at the final hole to make birdie and put an end to his days as an assistant in the pro-shop back home in Wollongong.

Zunic shared his ‘week of firsts’ with a tight knit community of Darwin and Northern Territory stakeholders who in a very short period of time, advanced the concept of staging a PGA Tour of Australasia event in the Top End from a dream to reality.

The Northern Territory’s Department of Trade, Business and Innovation and their ‘Invest NT’ arm of Government combined with Cazalys of Palmerston, the local City of Palmerston and a host of enthusiastic ‘corporates’ to pull off an amazing tournament at Palmerston in a matter of just a few short months.

“Really, really excited and proud of the team that pulled it all together.” Noel Fahey, General Manager of Cazalys Palmerston which own and operate the Championship and the host course.

“They worked incredibly hard in a short period of time, it was just fantastic.”

There’s a shared synergy between Zunic, the Championship and the Territory - truckloads of talent already on display but with potential to burn and an exciting future ahead.

Most of the players in the inaugural field last year were first-time visitors to Darwin and savoured a taste of life in the Top End, on and off the golf course.

Earlier in the week and before and after their rounds, players plucked up the courage to dive with giant crocs in the ‘Cage of Death’ at Crocosaurus Cove in the centre of Darwin, feasted on the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the famous Mindil Beach Markets and spent time taking in Darwin’s WWII historic sites and memorials.

The waterfalls of nearby Litchfield National Park were an attraction for many, a number pulled in a haul of Barramundi on half-day offshore fishing trips while the more conservative simply drank in the magnificent sunsets from the casino balconies or the many al fresco nightspots around the city.       

The community and business infrastructure around the capital certainly caught the eye but the cosmopolitan nature of city, coupled with its stunning natural assets and the friendly welcome of the locals, was the cherry on top in relaxed and warm respite from the colder winter months down south.    

With a number of weeks until the Championship, the field for 2017 is shaping up as one of the most accomplished in the Australasian region at this time of year.

Zunic has confirmed his return after thinking long and hard about remaining in Europe to maximise his opportunities to secure a European Tour card for next season via the Challenge Tour. His confirmation means most of last year’s top-10 are back on deck to return to Palmerston.

A first-time entrant for the Championship but no stranger to golf in the Northern Territory will be Dimitrios Papadatos, who will be seeking his third victory on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia this season.

Papadatos will start as a tournament favourite and has form on the board at the Palmerston course after shooting 10-under par in the 36-hole Palmerston Pro-Am in 2015.

Victorian Ashley Hall was beaten in a playoff by new British Open champion Jordan Spieth at the Australian Open at Royal Sydney last year and will be another to watch on his return to Palmerston this year. Hall earned a place in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale recently, courtesy of his Australian Open result, and performed creditably alongside the world’s best, despite missing the cut.

A host of players with stellar credentials on the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tours add to the depth of talent on show, with a sprinkling of Asian Tour players including veterans Marcus Both and Scott Barr, guaranteeing that the 2017 winner will need to have played some world class golf to lift the trophy. 

NSW veteran Nathan Green owns the most prestigious title of any player in the field, having bested Retief Goosen in a two-hole playoff to take out the 2009 Canadian Open, while Web.com Tour winners Michael Sim and Aron Price are class players who routinely pose a threat on home soil.

Price was recently in the headlines for donning the caddy bib for close mate Nick Flanagan, after the former U.S. Amateur champion qualified for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in June.

This was a role reversal for the pair as Flanagan had caddied for Price at the Open at Oakmont the previous year.      

One of the great stories of the championship will be the debut of NT born and bred Anthony Quayle, himself a product of some of the junior golf pathways in the Territory.

The talented 22-year old from Gove last played at Palmerston as a 15-year old but returns as a rookie professional in his first ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia season.  

Quayle first played in the annual Bridge Toyota Junior Masters week at Palmerston when he was seven years old and won his age group when he last played Palmerston.

The Classic celebrated its 20th year in 2017 with a record number of boys and girls participating from all over the Territory.

It’s fitting that the 20th anniversary occasion can be further celebrated with Quayle’s return providing an example to young Territorians of where hard work and dedication can take you. 

“It’s a really important opportunity for golfers in the Northern Territory, particularly our junior boys and girls, to be able to see players of this calibre in the flesh in our own backyard.” Fahey continued.

“Everyone involved in the staging of the Championship share a passion for providing opportunities and pathways for our young players to aspire to great things in the game. The Northern Territory PGA Championship – presented by Cazalys Palmerston; provides the perfect platform for that.”

“We see the Championship as an integral part of our community moving forward and an event that showcases all the Territory has to offer as a place to live, work and play.”   

The 2017 Northern Territory PGA Championship – presented by Cazalys Palmerston; will be staged at the Palmerston Golf Course in Darwin from August 31 – 3 September.

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