Strong Australian golfers head to Auckland for rich pickings
The Anita Boon Pro Am in Auckland this week has attracted its biggest and strongest field of women professionals to chase one of the most attractive pro-am prize purses on offer on either side of the Tasman.
The tournament, with the support of major sponsors KFC and Coca-Cola, will again offer an attractive NZ$40,000 prize purse and ranking points towards the major summer tournaments including the New Zealand and Australian Opens.
There's only one women's pro-am in Australia that offers a more attractive prizemoney, which has led to more golfers venturing across the Tasman.
The 28-strong field includes 16 internationals for the 36-hole event to be staged at North Shore Golf Club on Thursday and Friday this week and co-sanctioned by the New Zealand Professional Women Golfers (NZPWG) and the Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG).
This year's visitors include defending champion Karen Pearce, the 2012 winner Katelyn Must and former LPGA player Nancy Harvey.
Danielle Montgomery, who has been a poster girl for promotion of the ALPG, and Adriana Brent have recent experience on the European Tour and add definite strength to the field this week.
Montgomery is English born but now based in Perth. She is a former runner-up in the British Strokeplay and an English representative, with runner-up in the South African Open her best effort in three years on the LET.
Brent, who played on scholarship at the University of Arizona, had her debut season on the LET this year with her best a top-30 placing at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
Jody Fleming and fellow former Australian representative Katy Jarochowicz have enjoyed success in the USA, both winning the Texas Women's Open.
Canadian Harvey enjoyed a stellar career on the LPGA, amassing around NZ$1million in a 20 year career before moving to Australia where she has established a successful coaching operation. While Harvey never won on the LPGA she was a multiple top-10 finisher with runner-up her best after losing in a three-way playoff.
Defending champion Pearce is another with a successful career on the LPGA, a winner on the ALPG and also three times top-10 finisher in the Australian open.
Vicky Thomas is another Australian with plenty of credentials, with three wins on the ALPG and runner-up at the Royal Canberra Masters, and is a former state representative in baseball and surf lifesaving.
Australian Ashlee Dewhurst returns after a strong amateur career including victory in the Australian Amateur in 2011 and winning the prestigious Riversdale Cup in 2009.
Organisers are thrilled with the burgeoning depth of talent in the tournament.
"This is the highest number of professionals entered which reflects how the event is growing," said NZPWG spokesperson, Liz McKinnon.
"The backing of our sponsors and in particular Coca-Cola and KFC, means we can provide a very attractive prize purse to attract both experienced and some of the up and coming names in women's golf.
"The event plays a big part in preparation for the summer playing season for many Australian and Kiwi pros, and importantly for those involved in American and European tour schools. The tournament is well-timed to provide a competitive event for future stars to develop their skills and gain more playing opportunities overseas."
The Anita Boon Pro-Am, tees off from 12.45pm on Thursday and Friday at North Shore Golf Club.