The Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open has a proud history of champions who have gone on to win major tournaments from the great Greg Norman to Gary Player and Ian Baker-Finch.
The championship is one of the most storied events on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia – it was first staged over a century ago in 1913 – and continues to be a supply ground for the next big stars after 2016 champion Curtis Luck lifted the trophy as an amateur to kick-start his rise on the worldwide stage.
The Cottesloe member went on to win the US Amateur Championship a couple of months later, which punched his card to the Masters in April 2017.
Luck made the cut at Augustaand was narrowly tipped out of winning the Low Amateur to follow in the footsteps of another WA Open winner, Oliver Goss, who managed that feat at Augusta in 2014 – two years after winning the WA Open at Royal Perth.
Here we take a look at some of the tournament’s major winners.
MAJORS (2): Open Championship (1986, 1993)
WA OPEN CHAMPION: 1986
|G (Greg) Norman (Qld)||276 (72, 70, 66, 68)|
Greg Norman was aged 31, when in 1986 winner at Lake Karrinyup, the ‘Great White Shark’ became arguably the WA Open’s most high-profile winner.
Norman’s victory was his 10th tournament success during a stand-out 1986 in which he had already won his first major at the Open Championship and was only one shot from winning the Masters and the US Open.
The WA Open was Norman’s 29th and last tournament of that year while he also won the state opens of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia to underline his support of the Australian golf scene.
A meritorious runner-up by a single shot in the 1986 WA Open was Terry Gale who, given Norman’s form that year, might count it amongst his finer moments.
As an amateur Terry won WA Opens in 1972 and 1975, was runner-up in 1970 and 1974 and as a professional won in 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1990 with his sole runner-up as a professional the 1986 tournament to Norman.
MAJORS: Open Championship (1991)
WA OPEN CHAMPION: 1984
|RPGC||I (Ian) Baker-Finch (Qld)||276 (70, 67, 67, 68)|
Ian Baker-Finch’s WA Open victory in 1984 proved to be a watershed moment for his career.
At that stage the Queenslander’s only Australian Tour win had arrived at the 1983 New Zealand Open while he had also been runner-up at that year’s Australian Open.
Two months after tasting success on the fairways of Royal Perth, Baker-Finch made his mark on the world stage as he led the Open Championship heading into the final round only to be over-run and claim a ninth-placed finish. he would, however, secure his chance to lift the Claret Jug seven years later at Royal Birkdale where he won by two shots from fellow Aussie Mike Harwood.
Baker-Finch was just 23 when he won the WA Open in convincing style – his opening-round 70 was the ‘worst’ of his week – and would go on to claim 18 victories in total around the world, including two on the PGA Tour.
MAJORS (9): Masters (1961, 1974, 1978); US Open (1965); Open Championship (1959, 1968, 1974); PGA Championship (1962, 1972)
WA OPEN CHAMPION: 1956
|MLGC||G (Gary) Player (S Africa)||289 (69, 72, 74, 74)|
Gary Player was aged 20 with his professional career just taking off when he won the 1956 WA Open at Mount Lawley by five shots from young Cottesloe amateur Len Thomas.
The South African’s record-breaking career took flight thereafter, most significantly when he claimed the first of his nine majors at the 1959 Open Championship. Player would go on to claim the career Grand Slam, becoming just the third player to manage the feat, and remains as the only non-American to have captured all four of golf’s majors. The other four players to have achieved the career Grand Slam are Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Player was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 before winning the last of his majors at the 1978 Masters at Augusta.
MAJORS: 1960 Open Championship (St Andrews)
WA OPEN CHAMPION: 1950, 51, 52
|WAGC||KDG (Kel) Nagle (NSW)||283 (72, 69, 69, 73)|
|LKCC||KDG (Kel) Nagle (NSW)||286 (69, 72, 73, 72)|
|RPGC||KDG (Kel) Nagle (NSW)||286 (72, 69, 73, 72)|
Kel Nagle was aged 29, with his tournament career just emerging, when the future World Golf Fall-of-Famer won his first WA Open in 1950 at the WA Golf Club.
It was the precursor to a decorated career that would reach its peak a decade later when Nagle denied the great Arnold Palmer a third-successive major victory after holding on to win the 1960 Open Championship at St Andrews.
It was the 100th anniversary of golf’s most storied tournament and Nagle, who was born in Sydney, held off the fast-finishing Palmer to claim the Claret Jug and begin his own love-affair with the tournament as he finished runner-up in the 1963 during a run of seven top-10 finishes at the event in a 10-year period.
Nicknamed ‘Mr Modesty’ Nagle won an astonishing 61 PGA Tour of Australasia tournaments alone – and a further 23 overseas – and was runner-up to Gary Player, another WA Open winner, at the 1965 US Open after making up three shots on the final three holes only to then lose an 18-hole playoff.
It was the WA Open that helped kick-start his glorious career – Nagle’s only victory before his 1950 success was at the Australian PGA Championship the previous year – and he returned to Perth to complete a hat-trick of titles at Lake Karrinyup (1951) and Royal Perth (1952).
Nagle died aged 94 in January 2015 as an icon of Australian, and world, golf.