Date: November 27, 2006
Author: Alistair Hogg

2006 our best ever

By Alistair Hogg 1991 British Open Champ Ian Baker-Finch has labelled 2006 a great year for Australian golf. Speaking from Robert Allenby s charity event, Baker-Finch said the current generation of golfers is &aposour best ever&apos. “I think our talent is the deepest it&aposs ever been in Australian golf,” he said. “We&aposve got a huge amount of talent from 20 to 30-year-olds who are as good as anyone in the world. We&aposve got two in the top 10 and plenty more who are coming through.” Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy finished the year ranked fourth and 10th in the world respectively and created many of Australia&aposs 2006 golfing highlights. Scott claimed the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta that ensured a start in the 2007 Mercedes Championship in Hawaii but it was Ogilvy who created the main headline when he captured the US Open crown at Winged Foot. The Victorian held off final round challenges from Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Colin Montgomerie to become the first Australian to win the tournament since David Graham in 1981. Earlier in the year, Ogilvy also showed why he is one of the world&aposs best players by winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. “Geoff Ogilvy was sensational in his US Open victory and also at the match play,” Baker-Finch said. “He looked like he was in control. I think that showed the golfing world how good Ogilvy is and he backed it up with the US Open win.” “Having Ogilvy win a major I think really, really boosted the image of golf in Australia.” “It gives everyone an impetus to promote again and people really start seeing that Australian golfers are of a really high level.” “We hadn&apost had a major since Steve Elkington won the PGA in 1995 so I don&apost know whether the Australian public know how good the Australian players are.” “But when they win a major and do well in big events they really stand up and take notice.” But it wasn&apost just Scott and Ogilvy who led the charge. Stuart Appleby got his year off to a flying start with a win in the Mercedes Championship, Aaron Baddeley broke through for his maiden win on the US Tour, Rod Pampling tasted success in the Bay Hill Invitational and John Senden won the John Deere Classic. While our current crop of golfers might be our best-ever, there are plenty of young guns coming through the ranks to give a sense of optimism that the future looks bright for Australia. But Baker-Finch believes it is difficult to know who will be next to make the big step. “You don&apost really know at a young age. It&aposs all about application,” he added. “Desire comes in to it, how hard they work, how hard they train.” “If you look back 10 years, the group that was coming through, Appleby, Allenby, (Lucas) Parsons, Senden – I think we&aposre going to see another group or crop like that with world-class young players coming through.” Baker-Finch also thinks that Australia&aposs success and rise to prominence on the world stage will lead to an upsurge of participation at junior level, helping to create stars of tomorrow. “If Aussies are looking good and playing well and performing well overseas, it creates interest for players to take it up and attend junior programs,” Baker-Finch said. “I definitely think watching golf in Australia and watching the golfers play and play well and win against the top players is a big part of junior golf development.”