Luke Elvy: Calling James Packer

Stick with me here, I promise this is about golf….

I read a story in the paper on Friday, under the headline ‘Packer’s $2b vision for a global city’, which got me excited. It talked about how James Packer’s five-star casino/hotel Barangaroo would add to Sydney’s iconic Harbour.

That’s great for the high rollers and everyone connected to the project, but what hooked me was Packer’s vision to bring more cashed-up visitors to the city.

Tiger Woods Tiger Woods is on James Packer’s hit list (Credit: Anthony Powter)

These were his exact words in a speech to a room full of captains of industry, including our top TV executives.

“From a tourism point of view, I would love us to use the Harbour more. Sydney should be a Monte Carlo type of destination for Chinese and Asian high-wealth tourists,” he said.

Yeah I get it, there’s billions of dollars in Asia and he’s using casinos to tap into it.

But here’s where Packer picked my interest…. his vision also included the use of big-ticket sport to rival the tennis and F1 in Melbourne.

He said and I quote, “Golf would be a standout.”

Whoa, what was that?! Sorry to interrupt James, go on… “But it means putting money on the table and getting Tiger Woods and the very best out here every year.”

BINGO!! Here is one of Australia’s top 3 businessmen saying Golf is the no.1 sport to entice wealthy Asians to our shores, only IF done properly.

Our governing bodies – PGA of Australia & Golf Australia plus World Sports Group, which owns and run the Australian Open should be calling Packer immediately saying “James, you had us at hello. Where do we sign up?”

With Adam Scott and Jason Day now inside the top 5 plus seven of our golf courses in the World’s Top 100 list, Australia is very much a heavyweight on the global stage. Better still James Packer wants to leverage it.

But (yes you knew that was coming) here’s the sticking point, James’ late father, the great Kerry Packer, was burned by the then Australian Golf Union (now Golf Australia) in the late 70s.

He owned and ran the Australian Open when it was considered the 5th Major, but a power struggle with the AGU saw Packer Snr take his millions and walk away from the game.

That’s when he revolutionised cricket and delivered World Series Cricket. Golf in this country has been poorer for it ever since.

Golf fans are sick and tired of the poor treatment their beloved sport gets in Australia.

There are so many things that should happen but doesn’t because of the fractured nature of those with controlling interests. It’s beyond frustrating.

However, it’s time it stopped and EVERYONE worked in the ‘best interests of the game’, otherwise we will continue to decline as a golfing nation.

Kerry Packer was famous for saying “you only get one Alan Bond in your life”. Well it appears Australian golf might get TWO Packer’s. Lets hope they get it right this time.