Date: March 05, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

Meet your future heroes

Their names are currently best known to their families.

But give it five years and history shows the budding superstars of the Queen Sirikit Cup will have monikers known around the world.

The next wave of Asia-Pacific heroes put the final touches on their preparations for the 41st edition of the region’s female teams’ championship at Glenelg Golf Club in Adelaide today.

And while the context of the original 1979 tournament – to foster good will and friendships among participants – still rings true, there’s no doubt that the level of play from so many of the 14 competing nations has risen to the point that an extraordinarily high standard of competition is all but guaranteed.

Korea, the standard bearer of women’s golf around the world, will justifiably carry the tag as nominal favourite for the three-day event, with previous Korean teams having won an amazing 11 of the past 12 Queen Sirikit Cups, including last year’s in Thailand.

Names from those Korean powerhouses have included individual champions Hyun-kung Park (twice), Hye-jin Choi, former world No.1 So-Yeon Ryu and Australian Open champ Ha Na Jang among a host of other brilliant world-ranked players.

But as good as those teams have been, there are other regional powers emerging, most notably Thailand and Japan, who both finished within a stroke of Korea last year and return full of hunger.

To some, Japan might even be the team to beat this week, especially with the three members of their impressive squad having spent large chunks of time training and playing in Australia this summer.

Japan national coach Gareth Jones, a proud South Australian who knows just about every blade of grass on the immaculate Glenelg layout, is quietly confident his trio will rise to the occasion and take home the nation’s first title since 2002 in Malaysia.

“I think we’ve got a really strong team. Yuri Yoshida, despite being in her first Sirikit, has had great experience in Australia the past couple of years, Tsubasa (Kajitani) was nearly Aussie Am champ in her first visit here this year and Miyu Goto is a really good player as well.

“So I think they are a very strong chance this week. Obviously the big teams of Korea, Thailand and Australia at home are going to be competitive, too.

“But the girls’ practice over the past couple of days has been great and they’re playing well at a good time.

“We practise here, this is our home away from home. We have training camps here and certainly like playing in Australia and it’s an important part of our program to give the girls and boys more international experience, but particularly on bouncy courses where it’s dry and hopefully hot and windy – all those things we enjoy as Australian golfers and look to experience when we bring teams here.”

“And it’s definitely important for us to show progress in these competitions. We’ve had some great results in the past year or two – we we haven’t won this one since I’ve been involved, but we’re getting closer.

“We missed a playoff by a shot last year and it’s improving each year but the girls are more prepared than they used to be.

“We spend all our effort in preparation and hopefully let their talent just go and play.”

Host nation Australia will be represented by Victorian Julienne Soo and New South Wales pair Doey Choi and Steph Kyriacou, all of whom are inspired to represent their country at this level for the first time.

New Zealand is traditionally competitive, while much is expected from the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, China and the emerging Indian team, which will be led by the talented Anika Varma, already a +3 handicapper and not yet 15.

And while there is an individual competition, it remains very much secondary to the team event. Each country uses its two best stroke scores for each of three rounds to determine a winner by Friday afternoon.