SOME of the world’s top lady golfers will be gracing the fairways of Royal Adelaide Golf Club for the 2017 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February.
Tickets have gone on sale for the event, from February 16-19, which will see world No.1 Lydia Ko battling the likes of Aussie Olympians Minjee Lee and Su Oh, as well as five time champion Karrie Webb.
Webb will be returning for her 21st tilt at the national title, having never missed it since she made her professional debut as a 19 year old at the same course in the event in 1994.
“Royal Adelaide holds fond memories for me as it was the site of my first professional event,” the now seven time major winner and Hall of Famer said.
“I recall being extremely nervous and it was very hot and dry, but I played OK to finish around the middle of the field (T28 behind the legendary Annika Sorenstam).
“It is the only time I have played Royal Adelaide, so I’m definitely excited to come back and hopefully not be as nervous this time!”
Webb finished third last year at The Grange behind Haru Nomura, who will return to defend her title, and Ko.
“The Women’s Australian Open was a terrific event at The Grange in 2016 and it is already a world-class tournament,” Webb enthused.
“The support from the Adelaide crowds and the weather were outstanding and has taken the event to new heights.
“It is really building momentum and I have no doubt Royal Adelaide will again meet all our high expectations.”
Tournament director Trevor Herden said Webb’s commitment was a huge boost to the tournament, especially along with fellow Aussies Minjee Lee and Su Oh.
“You need only to have walked a couple of holes with Karrie at [the 2016] Open to realise the public’s love for the tournament’s most decorated player,” Herden said.
“When she made a move early in the final round to put herself in contention again, the passion was almost palpable and we know she’ll be the favourite for many in the crowd at Royal Adelaide.”
Both Lee and Oh have had great seasons on the LPGA Tour and are hoping to get their new year’s off to a great start.
“To win an Australian Open would be huge,” said world No.16 Lee, who won twice on the LPGA Tour in 2016.
“It was fantastic to have so much support in Adelaide and see the tournament really grow this year and if we can put ourselves in the final couple of groups on Sunday next year, I think it would be brilliant to have that backing behind us.”
Oh finished a creditable 50th on the LPGA’s money list in her rookie season that featured two top-10 finishes, including being runner-up at the Kingsmill Championship.
“The Australian Open was the making of my whole year. I had one chance to improve my LPGA ranking and was fortunate enough to make the most of it,” Oh said.
“I can’t wait to get back to South Australia and play Royal Adelaide for the first time. I’ve heard so much about the course and I’m sure it will be one of the best we play all year.
“The talent the LPGA Tour brings to Adelaide is enormous, but I’m hopeful we can get an Australian name on the Patricia Bridges Bowl this time around.”
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt said securing the signatures of the two 20 year olds was a real boon for the tournament.
“We’ve watched Minjee and Su come through the ranks as outstanding amateurs and now they’re taking it to the world as professionals, we couldn’t be prouder,” Pitt said.
“They’re both great additions to any field but particularly at home, we hope they’ll both be in contention come Sunday – that would be a huge thrill for them and the big crowds we hope to see at Royal Adelaide.”