As Western Australia’s oldest and most storied professional golf tournament, the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open and Roy Paxton Bowl have been engrained in golfing history.
The illustrious trophy can tell so many tales throughout its celebrated existence, centering on some of the greats of the sport. Names like Gale and Leaney have become synonymous with the tournament; icons such as Player and Norman are etched into WA’s history.
The tournament was first played in 1913 and since then the WA Open has been a haven for a collection of the best professionals and amateurs from around the country. Gary Player leads the list, the owner of nine majors; he was a one-time winner in 1956.
Then there was Terry Gale, probably one of the greatest Sandgropers to grace the game. In total, Gale owns six Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open titles, spanning over 18 years.
The WA Golf Industry Hall of Champions inductee won his first title as an Amateur in 1972, before securing his second title only three years later, having yet to turn professional. The winner of 41 professional tournaments went on to dominate the WA Open in the 80s – managing three more victories.
Gale’s last win came in 1990 at the age of 44.
The ‘Shark’ had his one and only victory in 1986, incidentally the same year he captured the Open Championship at Turnberry in Scotland. Norman was at the peak of his powers throughout this period, showcasing his world-class skills in Perth, on his way to nine titles in that year.
In recent times it has been the WA players, both Amateur and Professional, who have shone the brightest at their home event.
Stephen Leaney leads the list of modern day champions, clinching his record-equalling sixth Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open at last year’s tournament at Royal Perth.
Leaney shared much of the spotlight alongside fellow WA hero Kim Felton, with the pair going title for title in the early 2000’s.
The event has also discovered a raft of new WA champions – namely Oliver Goss and Curtis Luck.
Goss gained his title as an Amateur in 2012, the first in 21-years, which he used as a springboard into his career. The youngster eventually became the first Australian to claim the Silver Cup as the low Amateur at the 2014 US Masters, he hasn’t looked back since.
Luck, a member at Cottesloe Golf Club, shared a similar pathway, winning the WA Open in 2016 before playing and making the cut of the 2017 Masters.
Felton, who is currently working at the PGA of Australia, has fond memories of his home event, believing it was his favourite tournament whilst he was on the professional tour.
“You always want to win your State Open,” Felton said.
“When we grow up as young kids people watch this tournament wanting to play in it. The opportunity to play with the top professionals is pretty invaluable really, that’s why it meant a lot to me.”
“It’s probably still my favourite event when I was playing because it was at home and you had the opportunity to play in front of your family and friends, on the golf courses you grew up on.”
The former professional reflected fondly on all three of his WA Open victories
maintaining that they all had a positive bearing on his career.
“They are all kind of special in their own way,” he claimed.
“One of them was a Nedlands Masters and WA Open combined, but those two four-rounders were also extremely special.”
“Any tournament win as a professional is what we all strive for and to have a win is always special.”
Felton’s name is now carved into WA Open history, sharing the honour board with many golfers he grew up admiring.
“When I was growing up all of those real icons were still playing,” he regaled.
“I still remember as an amateur playing in one of my first WA Open’s with Terry (Gale) in the twilight of his career.”
“It was a great opportunity to share the course with a number of those guys, people like Stephen Leaney, they had all won the title – it leads you onto wanting to do the same.”
“I was lucky enough to do that.”
The three-time winner sees the unique side to the WA Open too, with the tournament qualification open to almost anyone.
“The great thing about the tournament is that anyone can qualify, it’s similar to the British Open, you can get these great stories of someone young qualifying and getting the opportunity to play in a four-round professional event,” he said.
“I always took so much away from it when I was young, being able to mingle and rub shoulders with guys that were doing so well. The likes of Leaney, Gale and Wayne Smith- I loved watching them as a 15-year-old knowing they had such great careers.”
“I hope the event continues because giving the likes of Curtis Luck, Ollie Goss and Hannah Green these kind opportunities is so important, they don’t always come around.”
“I see it as an opportunity to grow the game and hopefully bring more people into it, if people are walking around watching some of these guys then we have ticked the box.”
The tournament will return to Mount Lawley Golf Club, and the WA golfing community can’t wait.