Date: January 28, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Talent overflows for red-hot Open

Tournament director Trevor Herden has hailed the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open field as arguably the deepest in its decorated history.

Over and above the drawcards already committed to the tournament, Herden said the next tier at Kooyonga was better than in any of the previous 26 editions.

“Everyone looks at the big names we’ve already announced such as Karrie Webb, Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu, Brooke Henderson, Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Ha Na Jang, Cristie Kerr and our record number of Australian LPGA Tour players,” Herden said of the 15-18 February championship.

“But there’s a bunch more just as capable of winning this time around, too.

“We’re very proud to have in the field no fewer than 15 major championship winners who’ve combined to win an almost unbelievable 32 majors.

“We are also thrilled to have a couple of next-generation jets in the field from Korea who I think could be household names in years to come.

“It was this time last year that we had Hye-jin Choi win our Australian Amateur Championship, presented by Swinging Skirts, and now she returns as a professional already ranked No.11 in the world.

“Hye-jin is still 18, but has already won four professional events and was runner-up at the US Women's Open as an amateur last year, the second year in a row she was low amateur at arguably the world's most demanding event.”

Herden also brought into focus the world No.18, Jin Young Ko.

“She’s an 11-time pro winner, mostly on the KLPGA where many of us don’t really see her.

“But at just 22, she’s set to have a huge year in her first LPGA season after winning the co-sanctioned Hana Bank Championship in October that prompted her to take up membership of the global tour.”

In Haru Nomura, Yani Tseng, Jiyai Shin, Catriona Matthew and Laura Davies, five more past winners of the Patricia Bridges Bowl will return to Adelaide.

Remarkably, there will be eight past Women’s Australian Open champs in Adelaide who've won a combined 14 titles.

But the depth goes on.

Major championship winners Sun Young You, Mo Martin, Brittany Lang, Na Yeon Choi and Morgan Pressel will also feature, while the bulk of the 2017 Solheim Cup teams will be in South Australia, too.

European representatives Georgia Hall, Madelene Sagstrom, Emily Pedersen, Caroline Masson, Karine Icher, Charley Hull, Jodi Ewart Shadhoff and Mel Reid will all resume hostilities with their American counterparts, also including Angel Yin and Austin Ernst.

Emerging Danish star and last year’s runner-up at Royal Adelaide, Nanna Koerstz Madsen will make her LPGA Tour debut as a full member after matching Perth’s Hannah Green as a three-time winner on the Symetra Tour in 2017.

Indian sensation Aditi Ashok brings to town her growing Ladies European Tour resume of three wins at age 19, including her 2016 rookie of the year tag, and in Nasa Hataoka, we have another brilliant up-and-comer from Japan.

“We’ve also got a couple of great young amateurs in Yuri Yoshida, also from Japan, and our own Grace Kim, from Sydney, who’s the Australian Junior champion and has a bright future,” Herden said.

“So players from all around the world will be in Adelaide – it’s a great feature of playing a co-sanctioned LPGA Tour event that so many of the world’s best get to experience how great these South Australian courses are.

“And I was at Kooyonga this week and it has come up an absolute treat. We can’t wait for tournament week to roll around.”

South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell was excited by the tournament in prospect.

“The State Government is a huge supporter of women’s sport at all levels, from grassroots through to the elite, so it’s really exciting to see some of golf’s top female players here in South Australia,” he said.

“Hosting major events such as the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open continues to build our reputation as a leading sporting and tourism destination and I’m sure we’ll see some exceptional results at Kooyonga next month.”