Pros given the green light for Victorian Pennants

Golf Victoria has paved the way for professional golfers to play the 2015 Golf Victoria Pennants series following a recent Board meeting, which has seen the amendment to player eligibility.

Professionals will be able to play in each the Men’s, Women’s and Colts Pennant competitions subject to conditions. They must be a, ‘genuine’ member of the club and a team is to include no more than two players who are defined as being either from Interstate, Overseas or are Professionals.

Commonwealth Golf Club Commonwealth Golf Club celebrate their 2014 Melbourne Pennant Final victory (Credit: Anthony Powter)

Golf Victoria in a statement issued to all clubs has indicated that in the Association’s opinion times have changed whereby players are turning professional younger who are true club members should also be allowed to play Pennant Golf.

Clause 3.2 of the Pennant Handbook has been amended to include ‘professionals’ yet the two player per team restriction as to ‘elite’ players remains.

“Fundamentally it does not change the overall concept of the Pennant competition,” said Golf Victoria President, John Hobday in a statement.

“All eligible players will still be genuine club members and golfers of the highest quality competing with opposition players from other clubs in the quest to win a Pennant flag for their club. The difference is, some of these players may now be professional golfers.”

“Such a concept would have been considered taboo in the past, however, the golfing pathway has changed as has the concept of a club member.”

The changes are a first in Australia for a competition which is steeped in amateur tradition and club pride.

“The effect the decision has on the competition will be reviewed at the end of the season and if there are any necessary amendments to be made they will be considered,” said Hobday.

The Melbourne metropolitan series is one of the biggest club competitions in the country with 46 clubs separated into six Divisions in accordance with finishing positions of the preceding season competing in the Men’s division, 38 clubs across five Divisions in the Women’s series and 43 clubs in five Divisions in the Colts Pennant.

“The Pennant competition strives to be the best of the best,” said Hobday.

“Prior to the 1970′s, it was considered unthinkable that a professional become a club member, now it’s almost the norm. We should not discriminate against a club player who pays their annual subscription, competes in club events and supports what is great about our game.”

Yet criticism has already begun circling many of the club corridors in Melbourne.

“It will make a farce of the competition,” said one Pennant Team Manager

“You won’t be seeing many tour pros giving up their Sunday morning that’s for sure, so what level of professional will we be seeing taking up a spot that otherwise would have gone to a emerging youngster coming through.”

Keeping in perspective the restriction under clause 3.2 of fielding only two ‘elite’ player in each team remains, the initiative shown by Golf Victoria does include a number of positives and it will be interesting to watch how this season unfolds and to see if any significant issues arise.