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Australia loses biggest tournament in 2002

Australia has lost its biggest golf tournament after owners yesterday made the shock decision to cancel the Greg Norman International.

Abandoning the $2 million event to be played at The Lakes from February 7-10 has left Sydney without a tournament this summer.

Promoter Tony Roosenburg, president of SFX Golf Australia that controls Norman's signature event, accused the Australasian PGA Tour of jeopardising tournaments by stalling over TV rights and cited other examples of indecision by officials.

"Several factors led to this unfortunate decision. Chief among them, however, was the inability of the PGA Tour of Australasia to provide certainty in terms of the administration of various aspects of golf in Australia," Roosenburg said yesterday.

"This has created a situation that left us and our parent company in the US with no alternative but to cancel this event in 2002."

Roosenburg assured the Heineken Classic in Melbourne in early February, the week prior to the aborted Sydney event, and the Australian PGA in Queensland in November were not affected by SFX's pullout.

With the home season on the brink of turmoil even before summer's tournament schedule is released, Roosenburg also accused the Australasian PGA Tour of compounding problems by slotting another co-sanctioned event, an ANZ-backed four-round stableford points event, in Melbourne just two weeks after the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne.

"I previously have informed the Tour that in these difficult economic times, they should first look after and support their existing events before adding new ones," he said.

Roosenburg said he was told by Tour officials a television deal involving the Greg Norman International would be concluded in May and then was promised it by August.

"We went up to a meeting with the Tour in August and were told it hadn't been concluded and wouldn't be until the end of October. The end of October could become anything, so the sponsors we had waiting in wings have withdrawn their support," Roosenburg said.

"Why we are cancelling so early is because there are player commitments and golf course commitments and, before you get too close to the actual date, I decided because I don't want my reputation hurt in any way by this. I spoke to the bosses in New York with the suggestion to cancel the thing now.

"There are no players contracted yet, although they are waiting for signatures. I don't want to sign something and have to pull out later. We want to tell The Lakes, we want to tell everyone that it's off so at least they know now.

"It needs a television deal, we need the complete package. These naming rights sponsorships are worth millions of dollars and we need an international company.

"But, at the end of the day they need a big representation in Australia and we have to be able to tell them they are on television four days a week, either two days on pay (TV), four days on Channel 7, two days on (Channel) 10.

"We can't make up a package. We can go out now and sign smaller sponsorships, but if you don't find a big one, you have to cancel them later anyway because you haven't got enough money to run the event.

"This is not a decision you take lightly. But I wanted to do it early rather than late because we didn't want to muck, say, John Daly around by signing him and then cancelling a month later."

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