More majors predicted
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
EVEN though the recent US Open had a record number of Australians entered, legendary golfer Jack Newton believes the major victory by New Zealander Michael Campbell could be the catalyst towards Aussies winning their fair share of major tournaments again.
"When Greg Norman won the British Open in '86, then Baker Finch won the British Open and Grady won the US PGA I think there was a bit of a snowball effect," Newton said.
"We regard Campbell as one of our own because he lives here and he learnt to play here and other guys will say 'He won the U.S Open, I can win one too' and that's the sort of snowball effect that I'm talking about."
Newton was in Coffs Harbour last weekend as the host of the the Optus Corporate Cup at Bonville International Golf Course.
The Corporate Cup is one of the arms that Newton uses to raise funds for a charity that he is passionate about as well as developing the sport that he loves at the grassroots level.
Diabetes Australia and the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation are the beneficiaries of the fund raising that the Corporate Cup as well as other golf events create.
"Funding in junior golf is difficult to get," he explained.
"I started my junior golf foundation in 1986 and between this and the celebrity classic which I have in Queensland each year, they're pretty much the major fundraiser towards our junior programs.
"We've raised more than $2 million out of this event towards junior golf and diabetes."
Although golf is the former Australian Open champion's true love, life events for Newton have also steered the renowned television commentator towards educating people about one of this countries most prolific diseases.
"Diabetes is my major charity, I've got it, my father died of complications of it and I was approached by Diabetes Australia to do some work as far as the awarenesss side of diabetes goes," he said.
"They say there's 1.2 million people in Australia have got it and half of them don't know they've got it.
"It's a significant disease that has reached epidemic proportions worldwide and it basically gets back to a lack of exercise and poor diet.
"I see blokes now and I think 'Mate, you're a monty to get diabetes', and you can see it in certain people"
It's the exercise that children get from sport that made Newton's major charity so keen to acquire his services so long ago.
"That's one of the reasons Diabetes Australia in particular were so keen because we're dealing with kids as the money's going to junior golf and secondly, it's a natural exercise to be out walking the golf course," he said.
"It's a good fit."
Newton is proud of the Junior Golf Foundation that he established in 1986 and is keen to point out the many success stories created in Australian golf since it's inception.
Players such as Nick Flanagan, Sarah Kemp, Brendan Jones and Coffs Harbour's own Paul Sheehan quickly come to Newton's mind when pushed for examples.
He is most proud of the opportunities created for these and many other golfers that Newton was never offered as he was learning the game.
"When I started out in '86 there was nothing happening and that's the reason I got so involved," Newton said.
"The system hadn't changed since I was a kid. Obviously in any sport you've got to go forward and I think basically golf had sat on it's arse a bit."
Newton who now plays off a handicap of 18 is a man bursting with pride about the work his Foundation has done, the programs that have been put in place and most obviously, the junior golfers that the Foundation is assisting.
"They're not all going to be champions but I'd stack our junior golfers up against any other sport as far as their presentation goes," he offered.
"I like to think of them not only as good young golfers but I think they're fine young Australians."
Newton is aware that all sports are battling for the leisure time of Australia's youth but he firmly believes that a young kid can't go wrong by picking up a golf club and hitting a bucket of balls.
"I just think it's a wonderful game for young people to learn to play because it has the rules, the etiquette, the consideration for other people, the honesty and the integrity," he continued.
"It's very much a self discipline type game in an era when there isn't a lot of discipline."