Date: January 26, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Record Aussie depth in title hunt

If today is Australia Day, just wait until February 15.

That’s when the strongest and deepest Aussie contingent to ever have played the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open will take centre stage at Kooyonga.

Led by five-time national champion Karrie Webb and three-time LPGA Tour winner Minjee Lee, Australia will field a record seven full members of the LPGA Tour in Adelaide.

Joining those two in a full show of green and gold force will be the resurgent Katherine Kirk, Olympian Su Oh, the ultra-consistent Sarah Jane Smith, Rebecca Artis and the new kid on the LPGA block, Hannah Green.

“It’s just brilliant to have so many Aussie members of the LPGA Tour this year,” said Webb, who for so long was left to fly the flag almost solo on the global tour.

“We’ve all seen what Minjee and Su have done over the past couple of years, and now Sarah has had her best year by far in 2017.

“Then you have Katherine who won last year on tour, Rebecca through with a great effort at Q-school and our latest rising star in Hannah, who played beautifully on the Symetra Tour with three wins in her rookie season.

“I’d say that sounds like a pretty good basis for a hometown win – and when you throw in all the ALPG players, there is real optimism for an Australian to win!”

Webb, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, is also eager to show she’s still capable of a Sunday run.

“I’m quietly confident after a nice break and can’t wait to get to Kooyonga and see how it all goes.”

All of Lee, Smith and Green were in the top seven at Royal Adelaide last year, while Oh and Artis were also in the hunt before the final round and Kirk led after her opening-round 65, the low round of the week.

Tournament director Trevor Herden said Webb’s victory in 2014 stood as the only Aussie win of the past nine chases for the Patricia Bridges Bowl, so he was delighted to see the multi-pronged attack from the local women.

“What a great thing for us to have seven players on the best tour in the world at the same time – a huge achievement by our women,” Herden said.

“And you can make a strong case for any of them to be victorious come Sunday afternoon at Kooyonga.

“What a tremendous buzz that would be for the crowd against the rich depth of international talent we have coming to South Australia next month.”

The confirmation of the Aussie contingent further bolsters a field that already has a host of superstars including former world No.1s So Yeon Ryu and Lydia Ko, two more fan favourites in Canadian Brooke Henderson and defending champion Ha Na Jang and American tour legend Cristie Kerr.

“All these women obviously play great golf, but among their strongest assets is their ability to engage the fans,” Herden said.

“It’s a very exciting field we’re bringing together.”