The gift is for the fans who get an inside the ropes look and occasional conversation, as well as for those of us who cover the game. The curse falls more on the player who often will receive criticism or in some cases twisting of their words if using the platform to discuss controversial topics or ideas.
The latter has been the case for Queenslander Scott Hend who currently sits in a share of 17th at the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland after a second round 68 for a four-under total, 10 shots back of leader Jason Scrivener.
It would be reasonable to assume that Hend would like where his game sits ahead of the weekend and the Australian Open next week. However the first ever concurrent men’s and women’s national Open is the very subject that Hend has drawn criticism over.
Hend was not an automatic starter on the Sandbelt, but had the option of Monday qualifying, asking for an invitation, or a likely spot by using his lowly DP World Tour status with the European circuit unlikely to fill its share of spaces allocated as was the case this week in Brisbane.
But even with those options, Hend has no intention of a late run to Melbourne.
“It’s not the best format for a national open. I think there are many other weeks in the year we can do a joint tournament between men and ladies,” Hend told Golf Australia magazine when asked to clarify his position he recently stated on Twitter. “I have no issue playing with the ladies. I just think the Australian Open deserves more recognition for the ladies and the men. We should have our own separate weeks.”
The idea of bringing the tournaments together has been widely promoted with the hope that it could follow the Vic Open’s path to success on the world stage, while it clearly will benefit organiser Golf Australia financially.
“I understand there’s issues with sponsorship from the Victorian Government, but yet we don’t need to be put together in a national open for people to compare the sexes. We are totally different,” he said. “I think the tournament should be held in a higher stature than that.”
“Give the ladies their week to shine, give the men their week to shine … they can play for $3 million and we can play for $2 million, it wouldn’t worry me. I just think that they deserve their own week, and we deserve our own week for a national Open.” – Scott Hend.
Both tournaments have at times held high profiles in world golf, with the men’s event once considered something of a fifth major in the days of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player and Kerry Packer sponsorship.
The women’s Australian Open an LPGA co-sanctioned event pre-COVID, something that won’t return if the date remains in December when the American circuit is done for the year.
Without co-sanctioning from the Ladies European Tour as well, the women’s event has seen the field cut to 108 from 144 based on depth. Hend again clearing up the regard with which he holds the women’s event that will be headlined by Hannah Green and Minjee Lee next week.
“Give the ladies their week to shine, give the men their week to shine. Let’s go about respecting the national Open the way it is,” the 49-year-old said. “I am not talking about prize money, I am not talking about anything else. I mean they can play for $3 million and we can play for $2 million, it wouldn’t worry me. I just think that they deserve their own week, and we deserve our own week for a national Open.”
After taking plenty of heat for his stance, Hend was more than happy to be given the chance to expand further on the view that is shared by other players spoken to off the record, with the secondary 54-hole cut to 30 players in each field and the “U Draw” on the weekend a concern for some.
Hend played a practice round with Adam Scott on Tuesday, which led this publication to ask the Masters winner for his thoughts and whether it was a point of discussion.
It wasn’t, but Scott will wait to see how next week goes before he gives his full assessment.
“I think they can,” he said when asked if the two events should stand on their own. “I think there is just some realities too. I mean I could also make the argument that it makes sense for Golf Australia to run these tournaments together, lets face the economic realities of running a golf tournament down here. It costs a lot and we don’t have money to burn.
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“I look forward to playing next week and I maybe reserve final judgement until I have at least experienced it.”
Hend, who says he would be a “hypocrite” if he teed it up at the Open, won’t worry about first hand experience regardless of how the rest of this week plays out or if a spot opens up in the expanded 156 player field for men. Nor the negativity coming his way online.
“That’s how I think about it, that’s how I feel about it and nothing is going to change my opinion on that. It is nothing to do with being anti-women or anti-integration, nothing to do with that at all. People want to try and turn that around and slander me for it. They can try all they like, but I am still sticking to my guns.”