By Mikayla van Loon
A major golf tournament is coming to Lilydale early next year, with three prime golf courses set to host Golf Australia’s Junior Amateur Championships.
The Yering Meadows, Gardiners Run and Eastern Golf clubs have been selected to hold the four day tournament in late January beginning Monday 24.
Yering Meadows Golf Club president Trevor Mair said the event is expected to draw upwards of 150 players from across the country, along with spectators, family and friends.
“[Golf Australia] thought of this area because we’ve got three golf clubs in close proximity. So we’re quite excited about getting it,” he said.
“Because it’s junior, you think there’s going to be moms, dads, sisters, brothers coming out to watch. So conceivably, there could be 400 people two days of that week, which is great for the golf club.”
Yering will host the second and last day of the championship on Tuesday and Friday respectively, while Gardiners Run will open the event on the Monday and Eastern will host the Thursday.
Executive assistant Angela Chen said she hopes the championship will inspire more young golfers in the area to join the club and take up golf more regularly.
“It’s just getting our name out there, so we want people to be here and enjoy, especially to support PGA Golf Victoria and especially this one because it is a junior competition, we really want to have everyone see they are the future of golf,” she said.
Mr Mair agreed and said despite the potential cost to the club for hosting the event, it is worth it just to encourage those younger players to take up golf.
“We’re viewing it more as some publicity for the club for people who have never been here before. What we’re not good at is juniors and it’d be wonderful out of the event if we can attract a good junior team,” he said.
“We used to have a very strong junior program at Croydon. So if we can get back to 10,15, 20 juniors, once you get a group that are improving, you can put them into the junior pennant team. And from junior pennant they really start to get interested and you never know where that’s going to go.”
Although a difficult course spread across the 330 acre property and designed by architect Ross Watson, with lots of water and bunkers, Mr Mair said junior golfers are usually a pretty good hit and they will be able to work out the course after playing it on Tuesday 25 January.
“It’s challenging. If you can play well here, you’ll play well at lots of other courses.”
Greenskeepers have started preparing the golf course at Yering Meadows for the championship and will put a plan in place to keep it at a professional level.
Mr Mair said the last major PGA tour the club hosted was the Pro-Am four years ago where Marcus Fraser won but the club also holds their own championships and international days.
“We have had a Pro-Am here and I think there were about 120 players but we certainly got a lot of our members here watching them all finish. It was a really good atmosphere.”
Hoping for a similar atmosphere and crowd, Mr Mair said the first tee off time is expected to be 7.30am for each day, with golf being played well into the afternoon.
Spectators and players alike are welcome to stay at the golf club for drinks and meals after play has finished.
Mr Mair said he also hopes the championship brings life back to Lilydale, to help support small businesses after the last two years.