The world’s best female golfers are set to tee it up in an inaugural two-week Australian swing on the LPGA tour from this week.
The ISPS Handa Vic Open begins on Thursday, February 7, at 13th Beach Golf Links in Victoria and joins the prestigious LPGA tour for the first time. It will be followed by the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open to be played in Adelaide, South Australia, from February 14–17.
The Vic Open is a unique addition to the LPGA tour as it features concurrent men’s and women’s tournaments for equal prize money where men and women share the course in an alternate group format. While the women’s event is jointly sanctioned by the LPGA Tour and ALPG, the men’s tournament is part of both the European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia.
Many of the men from the Vic Open will go on to contest the World Super 6 event in Perth, Western Australia, next week.
But the spotlight will be on the national women’s open at The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide where this year’s field will include 56 of the top 80 money winners from the 2018 LPGA tour. The field includes World №1 Ariya Jutanugarn and major winners Lydia Ko, Paula Creamer, Georgia Hall, Brooke Henderson, Pernilla Lindberg and Catriona Matthew. World №6 Minjee Lee and five-time Australian Women’s Open champion Karrie Webb will lead a strong local contingent.
It will be the fourth successive year the tournament will be held in the South Australian capital following successful events at The Grange in 2016, Royal Adelaide in 2017 and Kooyonga last year.
The Grange’s East Course will host the tournament’s final qualifying round on Tuesday, February 12, while the tournament proper will be played on the West Course.
Women’s Australian Open Tournament Director Trevor Herden said a few of the holes at The Grange had been strengthened since 2016 and the course was in excellent condition.
He said the tree-lined West Course was a different style of course than Kooyonga and Royal Adelaide.
“Out of the three, The Grange has probably got a bit more room but access to the hole locations are much more awkward so while it is more generous off the tee, they will have to be very mindful of the hole locations and plan the tee shot accordingly,” Herden said.
“Coming through those last four or five holes — 14 through 18 — will be a great test for the players and will make an exciting finish to a championship.
“The courses here are a great attraction for the top players because throughout the year they don’t get tested like they get tested in Adelaide.”
The two-tournament Australian swing features the first two full-field tournaments of the 2019 LPGA season.
Herden said having back-to-back global tour tournaments in Australia at the start of the LPGA season was excellent for Australian golf and would gain momentum each year as word spread among players.
“It’s certainly a huge benefit because we get players who want to come down and play and because they’re coming out of a cold Northern Hemisphere winter it’s good that they have a chance to start the season with two events,” he said.
“Like what happened with Adelaide when we first went there in 2016, those players who came down couldn’t speak highly enough of Adelaide and The Grange and I’m sure they are going to do the same with the Vic Open.
“The depth and the quality of the (Australian Open) field is growing — we’re getting more of the top 80 off the LPGA money list than we had a few years ago and that combined with four of the top 10 speaks volumes for where the tournament is at and the courses that we play in Adelaide.”