10 highlights of the 2017 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
by Christian Puccini, Golf SA
#1 – 32,064 Spectators
Record crowds witnessed the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide.
Beating last year’s mark at nearby The Grange, 2017 host Royal Adelaide welcomed 32,064 through its gates, setting a new high-water mark for the women’s national championship.
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt was delighted with the figures who watched Korean sensation and new world No.5 Ha Na Jang salute on a dramatic final round on Sunday.
“We’ve been building something special with the assistance of the LPGA Tour and its players and this year has gone to another great level,” Pitt said.
“We were thrilled with how Adelaide got behind the tournament at The Grange last year and South Australians have again shown their support and appetite for elite golf by attending in record numbers at Royal Adelaide.
“The feedback we’ve had at almost every level has been overwhelmingly positive and the ongoing support of our sponsors and players has generated unprecedented interest.”
#2 – Royal Adelaide – Golf Club
General Manager Andrey Gay deserves a huge pat on the back for presenting such a fantastic championship venue in the clubs 125th year. While some may think that a club like Royal Adelaide could stage a major event with a few weeks’ notice, the amount of preparation involved over the past 12 months has been immense, especially with extensive club renovations occurring throughout 2016.
Gay, who is also the Golf Managers Australia (SA) President, has been a key player in bringing the event to Adelaide lobbying Golf Australia and the State Government since 2008, when Royal Adelaide and The Grange Golf Club jointly hosted the World Amateur Teams Championships.
Gay and his dedicated staff did a fantastic job managing the huge task of hospitality, amongst other things, and ensuring the club lived up to its reputation as an iconic Australian sporting venue.
The Royal Adelaide Committee were also a driving force along with Cameron Howell and his team in the Pro Shop who worked around the clock.
#3 – Royal Adelaide – Golf Course
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Tournament director Trevor Herden said the players were ‘in love’ with Royal Adelaide.
"The players are just saying 'wow','' Herden said. "They love it. These kinds of surfaces, that's all the players ask for week-by-week, and they've really got it this week.''
Golf Australia's Herden, who has previously run an Eisenhower Trophy here as well as various professional tournaments, calls it "one of Australia's gems''.
Despite difficult weather conditions, the club's staff lead by Nathan Bennett did an amazing job in presenting immaculate fairways and greens, with Herden arguing that the visiting LPGA Tour players will struggle to find a better venue in all of 2017.
"I'd have to say the quality of turf on the golf course is exceptional, it's unbelievable,'' he said.
"Adelaide had a very wet spring then a lot of heat in the week leading up to the championship, but they've done a remarkable job. It's an awesome tournament course. The variation of holes is really something, there's longs, shorts, there's tight holes. The width of fairways is unbelievable generous, so players who miss the fairway here, they've got to hit a very ordinary golf shot. In saying that, the greens are very small so coming out of bunkers will be tough and you need to place your tee shots.''
"There's so much history here, and we're so blessed to have this piece of ground,'' said Herden. "It's an awesome piece of land.''
#4 – The Players
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Being a LPGA Tour sanctioned event with $US1.3 million prize money and $US195,000 going to the winner, this meant the best players from around the world were on show in Adelaide.
The field featured four of the world’s top 10 players, including world No.1 Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, and Thai megastar and world No.2 Ariya Jutanugarn.
Remarkably, 10 major champions, including three from 2016, teed it up in South Australia in a field that also included crowd favourites Brooke Henderson and Michelle Wie, Australian legend Karrie Webb and the host nation’s first female golf Olympians – Minjee Lee and Su Oh.
Other former champions competing included Haru Nomura (2016), Yani Tseng (2011, 2010), Laura Davies (2009, 2004), and Catriona Matthew (1996).
All in all there were players representing 29 different countries with 35 players from the USA,20 Australia, 11 Korea, 9 Thailand, 7 Taiwan, 7 England
#5 – The Coopers Roll Bar and Canadian Club Bar
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The Coopers bar once again added ‘wow factor’ to the event. Positioned behind the 18th green and across the Grange railway line, the mobile bar which was open to the public, provided the perfect social space while able to enjoy a birds-eye view of the golf.
The Coopers Roll Bar is a must at Kooyonga!
One of the other places to be during the Championship was at the Canadian Club Bar. Positioned adjacent to the halfway house, at the highest point of the course, it provided a relaxing viewing point of the 6th green, 7th tee and green, 8th tee and crater hole 11th green.
These social spaces at events in Adelaide are a must. Why? Because they work!
6/ 520+ Volunteers
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Volunteers from 29 South Australian Golf Clubs put their hand up to assist, making the championship a success.
Headed up by Volunteer Coordinator Jan van de Worp, over 520 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.
SA Clubs represented by volunteers were:
Barossa Valley, Blackwood, Clare, Echunga, Flagstaff Hill, Glenelg, Highercombe, Kooyonga, Links Lady Bay, McCracken, McLaren Vale, Mitsubishi Staff GC, Mt Osmond, North Adelaide, Port Augusta, Royal Adelaide, Sandy Creek, South Lakes, Stansbury, Tea Tree Gully, Thaxted Park, The Grange, The Stirling, The Vines of Reynella, Tumby Bay, Victor Harbor, West Lakes, Westward Ho, Whyalla, Willunga.
A huge thank you again to all those volunteers who dedicated their time to make such a successful event. See you all next year!
#7 – Weather
The gods weren’t quite smiling as much as last year at The Grange from a spectator point of view, but the cool and gusty conditions ensured that the race for the championship would be wide open with many twists and turns.
In round one, in perfect conditions Katherine Kirk posted an early-morning 65 and watched the afternoon players struggle in higher winds a common occurrence on the Adelaide sand belt.
Another day another Australian, this time Sarah Jane Smith was brilliant with a second-round 67, six-under the card, in difficult conditions.
Players faced tough, breezy conditions in round three with American Lizette Salas playing a superb back nine to post a 71 and reach 10-under to hold a two-shot lead after 54 holes.
Gusty conditions lead to a rollercoaster final round where no fewer than five players held or shared the lead and 17 players coming within three shots of the lead as birdies became a rare commodity.
But in a truly incredible final hour from the 13th hole, 24-year-old Ha Na Jang from Seoul went birdie-birdie-par-par-eagle-birdie to close out a remarkable back-nine 31 that simply left the field in her wake.
#8 – Player engagement with fans
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Once again, the female professional golfers were so accommodating not only in regards to media requests, but also engaging with fans young and old seeking autographs and selfies.
Although a national championship, the tournament being held in Adelaide had a relaxed feel to it. The players were smiling and so were the fans.
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#9 – Kids attending
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Children 17 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.
With approximately 1,000 junior golf club members across the state, the Women’s Open allows us to expose our sport to the next generation, build participation and ultimately grow junior club membership.
#10 – Strong SA State Government Support
The tournament from the onset has had strong support from the SA Government through the South Australian Tourism Commission, with the Open being played in Adelaide for the second-year of a minimum three-year commitment by Golf Australia.
“Events like the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open not only continue to contribute to our reputation as a world-class sporting destination, they also continue to shine a spotlight on women’s sport – which we support at all levels, from grassroots to elite.” Minister for Tourism Leon Bignell
Fingers crossed that in the near future a contract extension will be signed for Adelaide to host the ISPS Women’s Australian Open beyond 2018.
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