Royal Queensland Golf Club Heritage Day 2014
Thank you, Ross, for your kind introduction, and to Royal Queensland for extending such a warm welcome to Kaye and me. It is an absolute honour that we be here today, on this our first visit to this prestigious sporting institution.
I am told that golf is a numbers game. There’s the great old quip that you yell ‘fore’, score a ‘six’ and write down a ‘five’.
Well here are a few more numbers for you: twenty-six, sixty-five and thirty-six.
One is my age, one is the number of Governors there have been in Queensland, and one is what I presume to be my handicap.
And do not be fooled by thinking that a handicap of sixty-five is impossible...
The point is, Royal Queensland has rather grand regal and Vice Regal links. I may not be the most prolific golfer, and I may not have the same intimate knowledge of the bunkers of this distinguished course as some of my predecessor golfing Governors (including Governor Arnison who I understand is still a member of this club). However, as Queensland’s premier golf club, I do take a great interest in Royal Queensland as an institution.
I therefore took great pleasure perusing the late Harry Marshall’s publication Royal Queensland: The first 70 years in preparation for today’s visit.
It, rather lucidly, sets out the history of this fine institution, and, at times, takes you on a royal rollick through Queensland’s political history, particularly how this club obtained its ‘royal’ prefix.
At the time Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited Brisbane in 1920, there were two golf clubs: Brisbane Golf Club, established in the late 1890s in Chelmer, later moving to Yeerongpilly, and of course the Queensland Golf Club, established at the present site in 1920.
Naturally, members of the more senior Brisbane Golf Club must have thought, quite rightly, they were first in queue to get the prestigious ‘royal’ title.
There are accounts that well-known tippler and Acting Queensland Premier at the time Jack Fihelly - who it seems preferred the current site to the Yeerongpilly-based club - may have been persuasive here, as it was rumoured Fihelly and the Prince travelled, fraternised and drank together.
For following the Prince’s visit, and intervention by my predecessor Governor Sir Matthew Nathan, it was this club which received the ‘royal’ title via confirmation telegram from then Secretary of State Winston Churchill in 1921.
Of course, how much of this story is legend and how much is fact may never be resolved, but I fear the wounds of this affair may never heal for some of Brisbane’s golfing establishment…
Nevertheless, whether intended or not, through devious plotting or through happenstance, we are here on the shores of the Brisbane River in Eagle Farm, celebrating the ‘Royal’ Queensland Golf Club some ninety-three years strong on its Heritage Day.
Of course, the majority of the Vice Regal links to this course are less controversial, with Governor-General Forster opening the first course in 1921 – of which this day celebrates - and Governor-General Jeffrey opening the redesigned course in 2007.
Our State Governors - and I am the 26th - quite rightly get a plug, too. Governor Nathan, whom I mentioned earlier was instrumental in sorting out the saga of the ‘royal’ prefix, also opened the tennis courts in 1923, Governor Ramsay opened the clubhouse in 1982, and of course numerous Governors have attended and presented on Heritage Day.
So it’s in this rather grand Vice Regal tradition I join you today to present the Governor-General’s Trophy, the Governor’s Trophy and the Governor’s Medal.
Before I present these, I would like to make a final comment about the role Royal Queensland plays as stewards of the game in our great State.
These days golf is not only a sport, it is a complex industry which includes resorts, real estate, retail, hospitality and course maintenance.
However quality courses and dedicated personnel lie at the core of golf’s success. And it is through initiatives like your Junior Development Program, of which, I note, Adam Scott is currently your patron, which ensure this game, and indeed Royal Queensland as an institution, has a prosperous future here.
In achieving these ends, I would like to congratulate current President Des Knight and the entire organisation for their oversight of this important Queensland club. I understand the new General Manager Mr Tim Gahan, who commences this month, has returned to the club after more than twenty years away.
I wish you all the very best, and please accept Kaye’s and my sincere congratulations to the winners of the prestigious awards I am humbled to present shortly.