#AusJnr: Juniors grateful for huge effort

Wollongong Golf Club
The Wollongong Golf Club has been beautifully presented despite record rainfall that has doused the Illawarra region.

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There are always logistical issues to wade through when presenting an event of the magnitude of the Australian Junior Championships.

But those in the Illawarra region have done that and much more just to get to tomorrow’s starting line for the national boys’ and girls’ titles.

As much of Australia’s eastern seaboard has, the host Wollongong and Port Kembla golf clubs have been inundated with more than 500mm of rain in the past month.

And even this morning when groundstaff pumped hundreds of litres of water out of bunkers at Wollongong, the water table is so high that a lunchtime shower refilled a few hazards in quick time.

The deluge, already massive but topped up in the past week by the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, has caused some major changes for the boys’ event at Wollongong and girls’ event at Port Kembla.

Golf Australia championships director said it was an “absolutely incredible achievement” by both clubs’ groundstaffs and a host of volunteers to ensure the tournaments would begin on time.

“It has basically been raining continually here for a month,” Herden said.

“We’ve probably dealt with large volumes of water like this before, but not constantly like this for so long. It means the water table is so high that any slight additional rainfall has a bigger impact than it otherwise might.

“It’s a huge credit to all involved and the work that has gone in that we’re able to be playing at all – but there are going to be some changes we need to make to have it as fair as possible for all players.”

Those changes will be formalised with athletes before play begins, but they will definitely include the following measures for at least the first two rounds:

· Players will be permitted to “mark, lift, clean and replace” balls on fairways

· A few tees have been pushed forward by up to 80m in order to have landing areas that aren’t swamped

· Some bunkers have been removed from play and will be treated as “ground under repair” with the ball to be played outside the hazard without penalty, while others will require relief to be taken from casual water, but the ball to remain within the bunker

“We will certainly have those things in play at both courses for the first two rounds and then we will reassess the situation,” Herden said.

“Hopefully we get a bit better weather the next few days and we start to dry out a bit.”

“I just can’t speak highly enough of the awesome effort by those at the clubs, especially with limited staffs, and the volunteers who’ve pitched in – it’s unbelievable how they’ve kept it playable.”

Naturally the greens have been a key focus and only Wollongong’s fifth has any noticeable damage that will alter how it plays.

Remarkably, before the afternoon rain, the greens were running 10.5 feet on the stimpmeter at both courses.

Both tournaments begin tomorrow with cuts made after 36 holes on Thursday.

Port Kembla will back up next week to host the Australian Girls’ Interstate Series, while the corresponding boys’ title will be contested at Riverside Oaks in Sydney’s north-west.

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