The first edition was a massive success. And now it has been confirmed The Sandbelt Invitational is back for another year, with the 2022 event set to be played
from December 19 to 22.

Once again, the four-day tournament brainchild of Mike Clayton and Geoff Ogilvy will visit Kingston Heath, Yarra Yarra, Royal Melbourne and Peninsula Kingswood in Melbourne’s famed Sandbelt after plenty of discussion from players and fans as to whether a new venue might make the fold.

Won by Brady Watt in 2021, the field will again be made up of men, women and junior golfers, with the organisational group surely set to chase some of the bigger names in Australian golf with the event following the first ever combined men’s and women’s Australian Opens being played at the start of the month at Kingston Heath and Victoria.

The success of the first event came via its simplicity, a tournament focused on great venues and opportunities for local pros and up-and-coming players to tee it up alongside the likes of Ogilvy and Peter Fowler.

“It’s the best courses that we have, setup as well as they can be setup, with the best players we can find. What else do you need, that’s a pretty good formula,” Ogilvy told Golf Australia magazine. Given some time to absorb what they had created and achieved, Clayton recently expanded on Ogilvy’s thoughts. “It’s unique and adds so many of the elements missing in tournament golf around the world,” Clayton said. “It’s mixed golf played on great architecture where spectators can walk the fairways and properly watch golf ‘from behind’ and close up.

“It’s about mentoring our best young players by pairing them with many of our very best pros and giving them the chance to spend time with them once the rounds are over. And, importantly, the focus is not about money and how much people are getting paid.” Among those players to benefit from starts last year were women’s champion Grace Kim, who went on to have a magnificent summer of golf, and Jed Morgan, who after taking a break from the game having finished strongly at the Sandbelt Invitational, then won the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship three weeks later.

On the ground, the event was something of a throwback with no ropes holding spectators back and a casual atmosphere that belied the quality of golf being played across the four days in the lead up to Christmas.

Again, played Monday to Thursday, the field will again be limited and first-hand experience suggests the Tournament Director (Clayton) has fielded significant inquiries already as to securing a spot.

“The reception and reaction we have been hearing, and they are accelerating, we had a lot before the tournament and now it is all unfolding, who knows,” Ogilvy said. “The sky’s the limit is not really right, but there is certainly something here, a great concept. A good formula to build on.”

Having garnered attention from all over the world the first time around with the names of Clayton and Ogilvy attached, but the exceptional courses doing the heavy lifting, one would suggest onsite crowds, the field and global interest will improve this year. So to the little things.

“Ten minutes into the opening round it was obvious that the event could have been better if a few little things had been done,” Ogilvy said.

“We didn’t have an official practice day or days, for example. The just pre Christmas dates work well, especially if we are going to get some of the bigger-name players to come along. We need good golf balls on the range. We need yardage books for each course. We maybe need a bit more sponsorship, although this event was never about prizemoney. Lots of little stuff. All we were trying to do was create a really cool event.”

That they did, and the concept is a shining light of what Australian golf has to offer with its courses, with benefit also for the Geoff Ogilvy Foundation. “My foundation’s main goal is to provide opportunities for young men and women to learn from the seasoned professionals and The Sandbelt Invitational give us a great platform to deliver some of this,” Ogilvy said. “As it’s our own tournament we can mix the groups any way we feel will deliver benefit to the kids. And a side effect is we can have some real interesting groups for people to watch. And with the return of more tournament golf to our shores this summer, the event is now part of a great swing that kicks off with the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship being played at Royal Queensland GC from November 24 to 27, followed by the Australian Opens then the Sandbelt Invitational.

“Just a tune up event:)” Clayton joked of the Australian Opens on Twitter when casually announcing the tournament would be returning in 2022. Keep up-to-date on Sandbelt Invitational news as it happens via our website, – Jimmy Emanuel

Credit: Golf Australia