Palmer confident PGA will remain at his resort despite T-rex trouble

Palmer confident PGA will remain at his resort despite T-rex trouble

MINUTES after dedicating a hole to his favourite statesman, John F. Kennedy, Clive Palmer declared peace on Australian PGA organisers and said he saw no reason the event would not remain at his Coolum resort for the next five years.

Alongside the golf this week there has been a guessing game about where the Australian PGA Championship will be staged next year, with the organisers and Palmer appearing at odds over sponsorship, signage and the placement of a huge robotic dinosaur named Jeff.

Cool head ... Daniel Popovic leads the pack at Coolum.

Cool head ... Daniel Popovic leads the pack at Coolum.

Photo: Getty Images

However, Palmer is confident the impasse is over and the event, which has been held at the former Hyatt resort (now owned by Palmer) for 11 years, will not be moving, contrary to earlier statements by the PGA's chief executive, Brian Thorburn.

''I'm very confident the PGA will be here for the next five years,'' he said. ''I'm sure that will be the case. I'm sure the PGA knows that, too. I'm sure the PGA board knows this is a great place for the players, a great place for the whole tournament, and where else can you go? Sure, there have been changes. And change is a good thing.

''We have Jeff the dinosaur. He's been all around the world. And isn't that good for golf? Maybe golf has been a little bit mundane. By having a dinosaur here, we've created more interest in golf. That's not a bad thing.


''They should come here and stay here because of the merits of the place. We're offering them a lot more than any other golf course in Australia. I'm sure they'll be here.''

For the billionaire mining magnate, it is partly a case of ask not what he can do for the PGA, but what the PGA can do for his Sunshine Coast resort, which he also is turning into a dinosaur theme park and which is the spiritual home of Titanic II, his planned full-size replica of the famous liner.

Palmer Resort Coolum hosts the event but, unlike the former owners Hyatt, the tycoon has stopped short of dipping into his pocket to double as a principal sponsor.

That has been one of several sticking points but a revised offer has been made to the PGA, which will be considered at next week's board meeting.

''I've obviously heard Clive's comments … and it's great that he is so passionate about golf and the Australian PGA Championship. I can confirm that late yesterday [Friday] Palmer Coolum Resort submitted a revised offer to continue hosting the tournament beyond this year,'' Thorburn said.

''It goes without saying that we are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for the tournament and our players, and the resort's offer will be considered by our board next Wednesday.''

Palmer seems more concerned with the players' thoughts than those of PGA officials, which is unlikely to endear him to board members. In his favour is the fact the tournament is exceedingly popular with players, who return year after year and enjoy the low-key atmosphere and the ability to stay on the course with their families.

Palmer made the startling admission that he had not spoken directly to the PGA, but the players' opinions, plus the Sunshine Coast's affection for the event, had convinced him Coolum was the tournament's rightful home.

''The PGA is the players' association,'' he said. ''The players made their position very clear earlier in the week that this is where they want to come. The players are the ones I've got faith and confidence in. It's a great time to come. You can have some real quality time here. … We love the PGA. Why do we love the PGA? It's the golfers. It's them … more important than the chief executive or the board or anyone, are the golfers.

''They know this is the best course to play on. They know this is the best place to take their families and recharge before the difficult tours next year. They're the ones that will make the decision. I hope we can reach a mutual agreement with them by the end of next week.''

Palmer has the financial reserves to bring some huge names to the event but he said ensuring a deal was done with the PGA was his priority.

However, if the PGA decided to take the tournament somewhere else, Palmer said he could stage a rival event to ensure a high-profile tournament stayed in the region.

''I don't think we'd want to upset the PGA - they're all nice people - but we'd probably have to have some sort of a tournament here for the people of the Sunshine Coast.''

Earlier, Palmer dedicated the ninth hole and its water hazard (now the John F. Kennedy Lake for World Peace) to the US democrat. He flew out Stephen Smith, JFK's nephew, and invited Brian Kennedy, a 15th cousin of the former president who was born and raised in Bundaberg.

Phil Lutton

Sports reporter

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