Crowd favourites Rachel Hetherington and Su-hyun Oh have effectively guaranteed themselves entry into next week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
While they are at opposite ends of their careers, neither has direct qualifying status and must do so via the ALPG’s money list.
But with high finishes in Sunday’s Oates Victorian Open finale at Thirteenth Beach, both Hetherington and Oh have all but booked a berth at Royal Melbourne from February 19-22.
Tournament director Trevor Herden said both women would be “welcome additions” to an already deep field.
“They’ve both been great supporters of the event in years past, so we’re delighted to have them in the field and we look forward to seeing them both as part of a tremendous field,” Herden said.
Both players must be in the top 10 not already qualified players on the ALPG money list after this week’s Australian Ladies Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.
But the surge in prizemoney at the 2015 Vic Open means both are effectively already safe with Oh ($24,306) second and Hetherington ($15,502) fourth before either starts this week.
Melbourne prodigy Oh, still 18, will make her maiden professional appearance in the national championship after incredibly making six as an amateur and being in contention with a round to play last year before a closing 78 at Victoria.
The former world No.1 amateur turned professional in December, but when she missed her LPGA Tour card at Q-School, she had to earn her domestic professional status.
Hetherington is making a comeback of sorts, coming out of retirement to play the ALPG circuit – but with no intention of ever playing competitively outside Australia again.
The Queenslander, 42, is one of Australia’s all-time great players having won eight times on the LPGA Tour and another twice on the Ladies European Tour.
After turning pro in 1994, Hetherington has remarkably finished six times in the top 10 of her national championship, including three runner-up finishes.
She hasn’t played the event since 2007 and retired to become a mother in 2010, but her form at Thirteenth Beach this past week showed her game is building and not far from the attacking groove for which she was famous.
Meanwhile, Melbourne-bound Lydia Ko barely clung to her world No.1 ranking today when she fired a final round 68 in the LPGA Bahamas Classic.
It appeared as if the New Zealander may only hold the No.1 spot in the Rolex Rankings for one week, but her charging tie for seventh was enough to hold the honour when No.2 Inbee Park a 72 in the final round to fade into fifth after looking a title threat.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it all week. (But) it was great to have the starter say, from New Zealand, Rolex ranking No.1, and that was really great,” Ko said.
“I think it’s only going to last for this week, but Inbee has played great and so have other girls. All I could do the last two days was just try my best and try and shoot a good score.”
Ko said she kept an eye on the projections throughout the week.
“I saw the news or like the projections and how it would change, but I didn’t really think about it,” she said.
“To me it was more important trying to make a lot of good putts and a lot of good birdies.”
Ko was tied for third at last year’s Women’s Australian Open, finishing two shots behind champion Karrie Webb.