The Oates Vic Open will have its strongest women’s field to date in 2017, with a large contingent of the world’s top international players set to grace the fairways at 13th Beach Golf Links from February 9-12.
144 of the world’s most talented female players have committed to teeing it up in Barwon Heads this year thanks to being positioned on the calendar a week prior to the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open.
A significant boost in funding from the Victorian Government has also played major part in the attraction of the event as well as the recent co-sanctioning agreement with the Ladies European Tour.
Following in her big sister Jessica’s footsteps, American Nelly Korda made her rookie debut on the LPGA Tour last week and will undoubtedly enter the 2017 Oates Vic Open as one of the favourites.
Korda’s first event after graduating to the Tour at the end of 2016 was at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, the 18-year-old finishing in a share of fifth.
Sister Jessica won the Women’s Australian Open in 2012, while the pair’s father, Petr Korda, famously won the Australian Open tennis grand slam in 1998. Nelly told Golf Victoria she can’t wait to make the trip down under for the first time since then.
“Last week was definitely an amazing week and I'm eager to get into tournament mode again,” Korda said.
“My parents told me I visited Australia as a six-month-old when my dad played in the Australian Open in '99 but I haven't been back since. I'm excited to see what beautiful golf courses Australia has to offer!”
Korda is also a fan of the Oates Vic Open’s globally unique format, where both the men and women play on the same course, at the same time, for all four rounds.
“I feel that it's great for the game of golf,” says Korda.
“I think it'll bring in more viewers because there will be a lot of variety.”
The sensational result in the Bahamas boosted Korda 89 positions up the world rankings overnight to World Number 249 and means the rising star will be full of confidence heading to 13th Beach.
Also looking to maintain the momentum will be India’s Aditi Ashok and England’s Melissa Reid, after strong LET seasons in 2016.
Ashok turned professional twelve months ago and the 18-year-old’s first season on the Ladies European Tour was highlighted by back-to-back wins at the Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open.
An additional five top 10 finishes throughout 2016 earned Ashok Rookie of the Year honours and has launched her inside the top 100 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Reid recently played her way through the LPGA Tour’s Final Qualifying Tournament to gain her Tour card for 2017 allowing the five-time LET winner to build in confidence as she travels down under.
Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and Major Events Danielle Green said the Andrews Government was pleased to welcome a strong women’s field to Victoria for this year's event.
“We're proud supporters of the Oates Vic Open and we can't wait to see some of the world's best female golfers tee up in Barwon Heads,” said Green.
"These athletes will inspire more young Victorian girls to pick up a club and get active."
City of Greater Geelong General Manager Investment & Attraction Brett Luxford said the 2017 Oates Vic Open has the strongest field of female golfers to date.
“The tournament continues to attract the world’s greatest players and it is testament to Golf Victoria and the quality of 13th Beach Golf Links for producing a world-renowned event,” Mr Luxford said.
Returning for the fifth consecutive year to the Oates Vic Open will be Dame Laura Davies.
45 of Davies’ 84 professional wins around the world have occurred on the LET, with the World Golf Hall of Fame member also claiming the Order of Merit on seven occasions.
Davies’ 2011 Solheim Cup teammate Sandra Gal will make her maiden appearance at the Oates Vic Open in 2017, the World Number 78 also one of 13 athletes in this year’s field to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Along with Reid, Davies and Gal, the addition of Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall means four previous Solheim Cup players will tee it up at 13th Beach.
Fellow Swede Pernilla Lindberg is also making the trip to Australia after also making a strong start to her 2017 LPGA Tour campaign in the Bahamas last week with a T31 finish.
Reigning LET Order of Merit winner Beth Allen will also kick off her 2017 campaign at Oates Vic Open, the American recording back-to-back wins late last season on her way to the top of the money list.
Allen notched a further six top 10s in 2016 and made more birdies than any other player on the LET throughout the season.
Hoping to go one better in 2017 will be last year’s joint runners-up Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Marianne Skarpnord, the duo returning to 13th Beach after falling one stroke short 12 months ago.
Norwegian Skarpnord is one of three former Oates Vic Open champions in this year’s field, along with Australians Minjee Lee (2014) and Stacey Peters (nee Keating) (2013).
Madelene Stavnar is the youngest woman in the 2017 Oates Vic Open, the Norwegian making her LET debut in Barwon Heads at just 16 years and four months old.
The 2017 Oates Vic Open is a sanctioned event on the ALPG Tour, LET Tour and ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia. The final two rounds of the tournament will be live streamed on Facebook LIVE and at www.vicopengolf.com.