As thousands of fans again packed the fairways of Thirteenth Beach to watch the final round action of the 2016 Oates Vic Open, there was no prouder person on course than Anthony Masters.
The general manager of the Thirteenth Beach Golf Links has overseen the tournament since it moved to the Bellarine Peninsula four years ago – and has done just about everything with his staff from stacking drinks fridges and cooking clubhouse barbeques to hosting VIP’s in the Beach Club marquee.
But the 2016 version of the Oates Vic Open will be his last as he’s moving a couple of good drives away to take over at Barwon Heads Golf Club.
Masters finishes in his role at Thirteenth Beach on Friday.
Under his leadership, the Oates Vic Open has gone from strength to strength with crowds, prizemoney and the depth of both the men’s and women’s field improving every year.
He highlighted the media coverage with this year’s event live streamed on the Golf Victoria website.
Thirteenth Beach will be the tournament’s home for at least the next two years, but he hopes that relationship will continue long into the future.
“The venue itself lends itself to tournament golf,” Masters said.
“The support of the local community is outstanding and I don’t think you would get this amount of support if this event was taken back into metropolitan Melbourne.
“The players have really embraced the fact that spectators can get up close and personal. They take photos, give autographs, throw the odd ball to the kids, sign gloves and caps.
“So it’s inspiring the kids of the region to take up the game and let’s hope that flows through to memberships of all of the juniors at the clubs.”
Watching big names such as Laura Davies, Richard Green, Marianne Skarpnord and Karrie Webb tee up in the event over the past four years shows that the players support the concept.
“There’s no doubt that the men and women playing together is the key to the growth of the event,” Masters said.
“We’ve seen the increased interest from the European girls. It’s possibly the most talked about event on the world circuit because of its uniqueness.
“I think there’s a real possibility this event could significantly increase its prizemoney over the next five years.”
Masters said the crowds have embraced the event since the opening day back in 2013 – and admitted the club was initially caught off guard.
“When an equivalent of a day four crowd at Spring Valley in 2012 turned up by midday on the Thursday (in 2013) we knew that we were onto a winner,” Masters said.
“We made a dash into Barwon Heads and cleaned the IGA out of all their sausages. We even had the finance manager cooking Wagyu burgers at the burger bar. It was all hands on deck.
“To see the event now with quality of male and female pros here and the number of spectators is very satisfying.”
Masters will be back in 2017 – but this time as a golf enthusiast and he’s excited to be able to get out and enjoy watching some action up close.
“I reckon over the four years I’ve seen a total of about 20 minutes of golf,” he mused. “It will be sad not to be directly involved, but satisfying that the event has grown since that first day.”