If more Australian golfers were like Robert Allenby, perhaps the Australian Open would be in a healthier state.
Allenby has his critics – and often rightfully so – but one thing the 48-year-old can’t be accused of is not turning up.
Allenby has played his national championship at least 27 times (he believes it’s 30, although records can’t confirm it) in the last 28 years.
To put that into perspective, Paul Keating was the Prime Minister and Bryan Adams’ ‘Everything I Do’ was the song of the year the year Allenby announced his prodigious talent to the world.
The 1991 Australian Open was contested at Royal Melbourne and Allenby, then a 20-year-old amateur, finished second.
It was a result that could easily have been one better, his magnificent five-iron approach to tap-in range at the 72nd hole trumped only by Wayne Riley’s outlandish 40 foot putt on the same hole later to steal the title.
According to the available records Allenby has played all but two Opens since that remarkable day.
In 2009 he boycotted the tournament and played the Sun City event in South Africa instead because of a dispute with organisers (he won).
And his name doesn’t appear in the standing in 2010 either though ultimately the exact number of appearances isn’t the important detail.
“I just play every year,” Allenby says by way of explanation of his commitment to the tournament. “It’s your national championship and you should go. It’s a tournament everyone wants to win.
“It was once considered the fifth major and Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were the three that said that way back when.”
While he has had his ups and downs with tournament organisers over the years, it is undeniable Allenby has supported the event.
He famously donned a pair of pink ear-muffs at the ‘Party Hole’ in 2007, an incident he says was ‘a bit of fun’.
“I love our crowds and I love our tournament promoters because I think they put on some of the best tournaments in the world,” he said. “But that party hole I thought was a stupid idea and I wanted to make a mockery of it. I don’t mind you creating that sort of stuff but there’s a tented village for that.
“Once people get on the lunatic soup they get boisterous and crazy and it is the Australian Open, not the Phoenix Open, and I just didn’t think that was right.”
For all the drama and controversy, though, Allenby says his two Australian open titles – in 1994 and 2005 – are his proudest victories.
“Those trophies sit on top of all the others in my house,” he says. “Above the US and European victories, above everything.”