Jack Newton created an incredible mark in a lifetime dedicated to golf.
A great competitor, Newton became a force in the development of junior golfers, for which he will be recognised on Thursday 13th October 2016 when he is inducted as a general member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
“You don’t set out to win awards when you’re passionate,” Newton says. “But it’s very nice to be recognised.”
Newton turned professional in 1971, winning his first title at the Dutch Open in his second year before winning back-to-back titles at the Benson & Hedges the following week.
Victories worldwide included wins on the USPGA Tour, the British Match Play and Australian Open crowns, with runner up finishes at the British Open (in an 18 hole playoff to Tom Watson) and US Masters, Newton would become one of Australia’s most successful golfers in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Following a near fatal accident that brought his playing career to an end, Newton turned his attention to developing young talent – a journey that would lead countless adolescent golfers on a path to professional careers of their own after passing through the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation.
Established in 1986, the aim was to introduce young boys and girls to golf. From introductory golf in schools to elite level tournaments, along with programs with indigenous and disabled young people, the foundation provides junior golfers of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy the game.
“Golf is at the stage where certainly I’m very proud,” Newton says. “I’ve always much rather gone to a junior golf tournament over a professional one. The way kids play – ‘there’s the ball, there’s the club, just hit it.’ The kids playing the game are incredibly refreshing.”
Newton’s foundation initially began as an international junior tournament at Hunter Valley in 1979. First it was from money out of his own pocket before a private backer donated much needed ongoing funds, ensuring the sustainability of the event.
“I could’ve kissed him – fair dinkum,” Newton said.
Some of Australia’s best golfing talent has passed through the tournament, including appearances by youngsters like Karrie Webb, Adam Scott and Jason Day.
“When Jason was 16 he had the most technically talented swing of the golf club I’d seen and predicted big things for him,” he said. “I told the journo’s ‘this kid is going to be a sensation one day’ and they all laughed at me – but I have the last laugh now.”
Newton was involved with the creation of ‘Go-Go Golf’, where originally the age limit was 10-years-old. “I had fathers calling me saying ‘I have a six-year-old and all they want to do is hit a golf ball,’ I thought we have to address this,” Newton said. “Now there are kids as young as five playing nine holes. It flabbergasts me but they love it.”
The effort to get more females involved in golf has also been important to Newton’s foundation. And there’s a new youngster on the rise that Newton feels will bring even more girls to golf.
Belinda Ji is part of the foundation and at just 14 Newton declares she has “one of the best swings I’ve ever seen in junior golf.”
Looking back, Newton’s efforts in the promotion and development of golf have defined his life.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” Newton says. “And it’s not without its fight.”
For his commitment and excellence in the development of junior golf, Jack Newton OAM will be inducted to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on Australian sport’s night of nights – the sold out Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner, on Thursday 13th October at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne – presented by Etihad Airways.
Established in 1985, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame plays a vital role in preserving and perpetuating Australia’s rich sporting heritage, whilst promoting the values of courage, sportsmanship, integrity, mateship, persistence, and excellence, all underpinned by generosity, modesty, pride and ambition.
2016 will mark the 32nd edition of this event, with eight Australian sporting icons, from on and off the field, to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
In addition to the eight inductees one current Member will be elevated to Legend status, becoming the official 38th Legend of Australian Sport.