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Australian PGA Championship looks for new home

by AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) –

The Australian PGA Championship, which starts on Thursday, has been hosted at Coolum since 2002

Kangaroos get a front-row seat for the Australian PGA golf tournament in Coolum in November 2011. The championship will have to find a new home next year after negotiations over the long-standing Queensland site with colourful mining billionaire Clive Palmer broke down.

The Australian PGA Championship will have to find a new home next year after negotiations over the long-standing Queensland site with colourful mining billionaire Clive Palmer broke down.

Organisers are reportedly furious that Palmer — who last year took over the host Coolum resort on the Sunshine Coast — has painted the fairways with signage promoting his own companies, as well as the slogan “Freedom of Speech”.

He has also erected an enormous dinosaur replica that moves and makes noises between the ninth and 10th holes.

Although the grass signs do not breach any rules, PGA Tour officials were reported to be angry about their impact on other sponsors and players in the golf tournament, starting Thursday, which has been hosted at Coolum since 2002.

At one point, this year’s event was close to being called off but Palmer tweeted: “We had some issues with @pgaofaustralia but all now resolved amicably and we are looking forward to the tournament at Palmer Coolum Resort.”

Despite this, PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn said the championship would be moving next year, with Palmer indicating he wanted to cut his level of sponsorship.

“It will definitely be played in Queensland — it just won’t be here (Coolum),” Thorburn told journalists ahead of the 2012 event.

“I think it is very sad, we have had a great run on the Sunshine Coast, it has been fantastic, but nothing stays forever.”

Thorburn said players would be able to take relief with a free drop under a ground under repair (GUR) local rule if their ball landed on any of the 61 advertising signs painted on the grass.

“Only about six to 10 of them are in landing zones and come into play,” said Thorburn, adding that Palmer had agreed to turn off the dinosaur so it does not move or make a noise during the hours of play.

Palmer, a self-made businessman who has an estimated wealth of Aus$3.85 billion (US$3.96 billion), is best known for his project to build a modern-day version of the Titanic.

Planning is well under way with Titanic II’s first voyage set for late 2016.

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