Date: February 26, 2016
Author: Christian Puccini

10 highlights of the 2016 Women�s Australian Open

10 highlights of the 2016 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open by Christian Puccini, Golf SA

1/ 31,000 + Spectators

Huge crowds turned out to the west course to celebrate the return of big-time golf to Adelaide. The crowds were said to be both bigger and more engaged than in Melbourne in recent years and as at 5pm Sunday, it was announced that more than 31,000 people attended the four days of the tournament, up to 15,000 more than were expected.

The Grange East course was used as a car park with the expectation that holes one and two would be used, however the spectator numbers were so large they had to open up holes, three through to eight to accommodate!

It’s a credit to the South Australian golfing community and general public of South Australia for supporting the event so emphatically. This has set a great platform for next year in being able to attract higher ranked players, generate even more media, develop sponsorships, and entice more fans from interstate and overseas.

It also shows the state government that we were serious about the bid to host and that there is an appetite for golf in South Australia.

Lydia Ko herself was surprised at the first-day galleries. "The crowds were fantastic. I mean, the 18th hole, which was our ninth today, was really packed and we were surprised because it was the morning field and we were only two and a half hours into our round.''

Mike Clayton “South Australian golf fans, for too long starved of the chance to watch good players, turned up in numbers exceeding the expectations of all. It felt like a proper tournament with players teeing off ten and fifteen groups ahead of the leaders still playing in front of appreciative galleries.”

2/ The Grange Golf Club

General Manager Barry Linke deserves a well-earned break after hosting “maybe our best-ever Open” according to Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt.

Linke, Grange's general manager for the past 26 years, was one of the key players in bringing the event to Adelaide lobbying Golf Australia and the State Government since 2008, when The Grange Golf Club and Royal Adelaide jointly hosted the World Amateur Teams Championships.

Linke and his dedicated staff did an amazing job managing the huge task of hospitality, amongst other things, ensuring the club lived up to its reputation as a premium sporting venue.

President Bruno Battistella and Committee were also a driving force along with Warren Mercer and his team in the Pro Shop who worked around the clock.

An amazing team effort by all at The Grange Golf Club, the SA golf community is extremely appreciative.

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3/ The West Course

Course Superintendent Richard James and his team presented a truly superb championship course. James was not only representing The Grange Golf Club and its members during the Open, but rather the whole South Australian Golf Industry, with the responsibility of showcasing to the world, just how amazing our courses are, especially the Adelaide Sandbelt, where the courses are crafted on ideal undulating sandy land.

The Grange is always in great condition, but setting a course for a major championship requires skill, precision and time.  It must be remembered that the South Australian Minister for Recreation, Sport and Tourism, Leon Bignell, only announced that The Grange Golf Club would host the event on 16 November 2015.

With only three months lead time, James and his team managed to exceed all expectations and present a course to be immensely proud off. It is important to note that the event was broadcast to over 200 million homes across the globe so delivering a pristine golf course was a must. And The Grange Greenies delivered.

Australian Golf Digests top 100 Golf Courses have just been released, with The Grange West rated 44th in the country. Without a shadow of a doubt The Grange West Course last week was the best Golf Course in the country.

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4/ The Players

Being tri-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and the domestic ALPG Tour, meant the best players from around the world were on show in Adelaide.

Playing for AUD $1.83million also had something to do with it.

World No.1 and defending champion Lydia Ko headlined the field, also featuring five-time champion Karrie Webb and Australia’s top-ranked player, Minjee Lee.

All in all there were players representing 29 different countries with 39 players from the USA, 23 Australia, 15 Korea, 11 England, 7 Japan, 7 France and Laetitia Beck, the first and only professional golfer from Israel.

There was glitz and glamour as well as power and skill, it was an awesome sight to see these professional athletes in action.

5/ The Coopers Roll Bar

The Coopers bar added ‘wow factor’ to the event. Positioned between the 18th green and scorers hut, the impressive structure, open to the public, created a social feel akin to ‘out the back’ at the Adelaide Test match.  

Quite simply it was awesome, providing a birds-eye view of the action. It was the place to be.

Royal Adelaide General Manager Andrew Gay is already in discussions with Coopers about where to position the structure next year!

6/ 450+ Volunteers

There was an amazing response from across all SA Golf Clubs after the call went out seeking volunteers. Headed up by Bronwyn Kinnear from the Grange Golf Club, over 450 Volunteers assisted with running the tournament, taking on various roles such as Car Park Attendant, Caddy Bibs Distribution/Collection, Carry Board Holder, Hole Marshall, Leader Board Attendant, Practice Fairway Attendant, Roving Marshall, Scorers Hut, Walker Scorer, Locker-room Attendant, Program Sellers, Courtesy Car Driver and Wardrobe Spotters.

Major golf tournaments simply can’t be run without the assistance of skilful volunteers. A huge thank you to all those who stepped up to the plate and committed to putting in long hours and hard work to make such a successful event.  

There was no better sight than seeing the mass of volunteers walking side by side down the 18th fairway behind the final group on Sunday.

Thank you. Would love to see you all again next year!

7/ Amazing Weather

The gods were smiling with picture perfect conditions all week. You couldn’t have wished for better conditions throughout the week from both a player and spectator point of view.

Round one started ‘under clear skies and in breathless conditions’ with the wind kicking up late presenting a nice challenge for the afternoon groups.

The players faced breezy conditions in round two making it tough to decide whether to attack or play safe, a perfect scenario.

On Saturday there was no better place to be than at The Grange. The skies were clear, there wasn’t a breath of wind and the temperature was ideal. The final round was picture-perfect.

Conditions during the week weren’t all that surprising though, given that Adelaide’s climate is the envy of most cities around the world!

8/ Player engagement with fans

We always heard that female professional golfers are so engaging and we witnessed this first hand at the Open. It was fantastic to see the players so appreciative of the Walker Scorers and Carry Board Holders who were involved with their rounds, often chatting with and signing golf balls post round for these volunteers.

The players also had so much time for the young fans seeking autographs generally outside the scorers hut and it wasn’t out of the ordinary for players to be there for 15 mins post round signing caps, golf balls and player programs for their fans and well as posing for photographs.  

This was a major highlight.

9/ Kids attending

One of the most important elements of hosting the Women’s Open for at least three years is that it will provide a platform for our juniors and the next generation of elite players to be inspired in person by the game’s best.

Being able to see your heroes up close and personal and to provide aspirational figureheads is vital to growing the game.

Children 15 under were free to attend and it was great to see so many children watching the golf with their families, having fun in the Interactive Zone, participating in MyGolf clinics, watching pro demonstrations and hunting for autographs.

10/ Everyone working together

The event is owned by Golf Australia so they are unlimitedly responsible for all facets of the Championship.

Golf Australia staff expended a huge amount of time and effort ensuring the event was staged to perfection on and off the course and it was great to see all stakeholders including Golf SA, the Host club, Government, Sponsors, Media, and other Governing bodies working together to achieve the desired result.

Stephen Pitt said: "I think clearly it was a landmark event for us last week. The 2016 ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open was clearly one of the best we've ever had.  I can't speak highly enough about the way the government, the clubs, the sponsors, and all the local institutions really embraced the event and helped us create something that was magnificent.”