Minutes after dedicating a golf hole to his favourite statesman JFK, Clive Palmer declared peace on Australian PGA organisers and said he sees no reason why the event won’t remain at his Coolum resort for the next five years.
Accompanying the golf this week has been the guessing game about where the Australian PGA Championship will be staged next year, with organisers and Palmer appearing to be at odds over sponsorship, signage and the placement of a huge robotic dinosaur named Jeff.
But Palmer is now confident the impasse was over and the event, which has been held at the former Hyatt resort (now owned by Palmer) for the past 11 years, won’t be going anywhere, contrary to earlier statements by PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn.
“I’m very confident the PGA will be here for the next five years. I’m sure that will be the case. I’m sure the PGA knows that too. I’m sure the PGA board knows this is a great place for the players, a great place for the whole tournament. And where else can you go?” Palmer said.
“Sure, there have been changes. And change is a good thing. We have Jeff the dinosaur. He’s been all around the world. And isn’t that good for golf? Maybe golf has been a little bit mundane. By having a dinosaur here, we’ve created more interest in golf. That’s not a bad thing.
“They should come here and stay here because of the merits of the place. It’s the right sort of place to be here. We’re offering them a lot more than any other golf course in Australia. I’m sure they’ll be here.”
For the billionaire mining magnate, it’s partly a case of ask not what he can do for the PGA, but what the PGA can do for his resort on the Sunshine Coast, which he is also turning into a dinosaur park and which is the spiritual berth of Titanic II, his full-size replica of the famous liner.
Palmer Resort Coolum hosts the event but unlike former owners Hyatt, the tycoon has stopped short of dipping into his pocket to double as a major sponsor.
That has been one of a number of sticking points but a revised offer to the PGA has been made and will be considered at the body’s board meeting next week.
“I’ve obviously heard Clive’s comments from this morning and it’s great that he is so passionate about golf and the Australian PGA Championship. I can confirm that late yesterday (Friday) Palmer Coolum Resort submitted a revised offer to continue hosting the tournament beyond this year,” Thorburn said.
“It goes without saying that we are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for the tournament and our players, and the resort’s offer will be considered by our board next Wednesday.”
Palmer seems for more concerned with the thoughts of players rather than PGA officials, which isn’t likely to endear him to those on the PGA board.
In his corner is the fact this tournament remains exceedingly popular with the players, who return year after year and enjoy the low-key atmosphere and ability to stay on the course with their families.
Palmer made the startling admission he hasn’t even personally talked to the PGA but the opinion of players, plus the Sunshine Coast’s affection for the event, had convinced him this was the tournament’s rightful home.
“The PGA is the player’s association. The players made their position very clear earlier in the week that this is where they want to come. The players are the ones I’ve got faith and confidence in. It’s a great time to come. You can have some real quality time here,” Palmer said.
“We love the PGA. Why do we love the PGA? It’s the golfers. It’s them... more important than the chief executive or the board or anyone are the golfers.
“They know this is the best course to play on. They know this is the best place to take their families and recharge before the difficult tours next year. They’re the ones that will make the decision.
“I hope we can reach a mutual agreement with them by the end of next week. It would be wrong to say the flame has gone out. Hope is still alive.”
Palmer has the financial reserve to dip into his pockets and bring some huge names out for the event but he said ensuring a deal was done with the PGA was his first priority.
However, if the PGA decided to take the tournament somewhere else, Palmer said he could stage a rival event to ensure a high-profile tournament remained in the region.
“I don’t think we’d want to upset the PGA. They’re all nice people. But we’d probably have to have some sort of a tournament here for the people of the Sunshine Coast,” he said.
Earlier, Palmer dedicated the ninth and its water hazard (now the John F Kennedy Lake for World Peace) to the famous New England democrat. He flew out Stephen Smith, John F’s Kennedy’s nephew, and even trucked down Brian Kennedy, a 15th cousin of the former president who was born and raised in Bundaberg.
If nothing else, Palmer continues to keep it surreal, also taking a $100 bet from a journalist that the tournament would be back next year.