Adelaide set for its biggest sporting event since the inaugural 1985 F1 Aussie GP

Bernie McGuire

Cameron Smith (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bernie McGuire

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Adelaide, the capital of the Australian state of South Australia, and lovingly known as the City of Churches … 529 to be precise.

The city was founded in 1836 and named in honour of Queen Adelaide who was the wife at the time of the British monarch King William IV.

It was the only freely-settled British province in Australia which, I guess, is a nice way of saying no ships sailed up the Torrens River laden with convicts.

However, unlike its Sydney and Melbourne cousins, Adelaide has never been big on global sporting events. Yes, it has long hosted Australian Opens and South Australian golf championships, international test cricket, it has two Australian Rules football sides, along with men and women baseball and basketball teams plus Adelaide United is a member of the A-League.

One of the biggest international sporting events to come to Adelaide was the first hosting of a round of the Formula One World Championship. That was in 1985 and remained a round of the championship till 1995 when, and much to the bitter disappointment of South Australians, the race switched to Melbourne.

I attended a number of Australian F1 GPs in Adelaide as a budding sports journalist and doubly attracted as PGA of Australia officials saw the worth of staging the South Australian Open in the week of the Grand Prix. The golf tournament would commence on Wednesday and finish on Saturday ahead of the Australian FI GP being staged on the Sunday.

Tuesday was pro-am day and I recall vividly the likes of Nigel Mansell, Frenchman Alain Prost and Austrian Gerhard Berger were among the amateur stars teeing-up in the pro-am. One of those who did not play golf was Brazilian great Ayrton Senna, on pole for the inaugural GP in 1985 and then finally winning on the Adelaide circuit in 1991 and 1993.

Speaking of Senna, back then I was delving in both writing and photography. One year, I had a small number of photographs taken on track of the cars including Senna’s Marlboro McLaren, and in walking around the Adelaide pits one year, I asked Senna if he would be good enough to autograph the A4 size photograph.

What then transpired kind of blew my mind away, and I still remember to this day, as he accepted the pretty average photograph but quickly began studying the tyres or, more particularly, the wear pattern on one of the rear tyres. He showed the photograph to some of his crew before presenting it back to me. I still have the photograph to this day.

Greg Norman, who’s leading the LIV golfers down to Adelaide this week, is a former double South Australian Open champion, winning the Australian and New Zealand Tour event in 1986 and then 10-years later. It was in between these two victories in Adelaide that The Grange Club hosted the event, and that being in 1987 and 1988, and Northern Ireland’s Ronan Rafferty winning in ’87 and the late Gordon Brand Jnr in ’89.  Both players were regular visitors to Australia.

The Grange, which is hosting this week’s historic first LIV event ‘down under’, is one of the big four in Adelaide golf courses that also includes Royal Adelaide, Kooyonga and Glenelg.

However, when it comes to the prestigious hosting of the Australian Open, only Royal Adelaide and Kooyonga have hosted Australia’s premier golfing tournament.

I was among the media who attended the 1998 Australian Open at Royal Adelaide. In the field was then 18-year-old rookie professional Justin Rose, who had endeared himself to golf fans the world over some five months earlier, and also generating one of the loudest roars ever heard in golf when holed out from the rough at the last hole for a birdie ‘3’ in sharing fourth place, as an amateur, at The Open at Royal Birkdale.

In turning pro ahead of the following week’s Dutch Open, Rose won the Wednesday afternoon pro-am but thereafter could not make a halfway cut in the ‘play-for-pay’ ranks. In fact, he missed the halfway cut in 21 straight events, including as the then World No. 255, in teeing-up by way of an invitation at Royal Adelaide.

It would not be till June 1999, and finishing last among those who made the cut at the European Tour’s Compact Grand Prix, that Rose ended his miserable run of outs.

Of course, Rose is a major champion and a winner of 25 worldwide events, including 11 on the PGA Tour while he’s played in five European Ryder Cup teams, winning three, though you won’t see ‘Rosey’ this week teeing-up in the City of Churches.

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