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2012 Australia PGA Championship to Have 'Jurassic Park' Theme
Thanks to the new owner of the Coolum Resort, the Australian PGA Championship will have a decided "Jurassic Park" theme when it starts Thursday.
Australian billionaire Clive Palmer has installed a 26-foot-high robotic replica of a tyrannosaurus rex between the ninth green and 10th tee on the course that has hosted the tournament since 2002.
The new proprietor, who has renamed the destination Palmer Coolum Resort, plans to add more dinosaurs and convert the property into a theme park or casino. Among other installations, he intends to build a replica of the Titanic. To help promote the resort's new focus Palmer has installed over 60 signs across the course, including in fairway landing areas.
Since Palmer has refused to move the signs for the tournament, Australasian Tour officials have designated some of the landing areas "ground under repair," whereby golfers will be able to move the ball if it lands too close to - or if their stance is interfered by - the signs.
The Tour almost called the tournament off because of Palmer's adamancy. Australasian PGA Tour chief executive Brian Thorburn told a media conference Tuesday said that he wouldn't discuss the "cut and thrust" of negotiations with Palmer, but that the Tour is searching for another site for the championship in 2013.
"We have had a great run on the Sunshine Coast, it has been fantastic, but nothing stays forever," Thorburn said. "Emotionally it will be sad."
Palmer tweeted on Sunday: "We had some issues with pgaofaustralia, but all now resolved amicably and we are looking forward to the tournament at Palmer Coolum Resort."
Some entrants in the tournament, which was first played in 1905, have been informed about the controversy. "I've heard it sounds like we are going to Jurassic Park, so this will be interesting," Robert Allenby said.
The dinosaur is programmed to move whenever anyone gets near it. Nicknamed "Jeff," the mechanical beast flips its tail up in the air and opens its mouth wide open and roars when someone approaches. Resort golfers now take "dinosaur mulligans" when the roar occurs during their backswings on the 10th tee.
According to The Associated Press, Palmer will turn off the robotic element during the tournament proper but might leave it on during Wednesday's pro-am. "I'm glad it's not roaring, that's a good start," said defending champion Greg Chalmers. "It is just a little strange. It is not what I expected to see."
Thorburn said he's never had to deal with rules associated with an "invading" T-Rex on a Tour site. "But having said that, let's put it into perspective," he noted. "It has generated some tremendous publicity for this tournament and we don't have a big marketing budget so in that regard everybody knows that the PGA is on at Coolum at the moment.
"From a golf perspective the guys who are playing the ninth hole don't see it as they chip in, (but) it might be in the background when they are putting from the opposite direction. The 10th tee, it's not in their sights when they are teeing it up, so it is not going to interfere in the golf in any way."
Darren Clarke, the 2011 British Open champion, said leaving Coolum Resort will be sad. "That's a shame," Clarke said about the move next year. "You can't get many better places than this."
For more details about the field and the tournament, visit http://championship.pga.org.au/.