The Hero Women’s Indian Open is set to tee off with its strongest-ever line-up as defending champion Laura Davies, and two-time former champion Phatlum Pornanong are among the top stars confirming their participation in the flagship event at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon from December 9 to 11.
Around 108 golfers from 26 countries will feature in the $ 300,000 (Euros 225,000) event tri-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour, the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) and Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI). The event will be played over three days and 54 holes.
The field includes eight golfers, who between them have won 10 events this year. It also features each of the LET Henderson Money List winners since 2006, including the 2010 Henderson Money List champion Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa, who returns after playing last year.
Alexandra Armas, Executive Director of the Ladies European Tour, hailed the tournament as a big step forward in the LET’s growth internationally and a sign of the growing strength of golf in India. “We are all very excited and looking forward to the Hero Women’s Indian Open at the beginning of December. The tournament is part of our final stretch of events that will be critical in deciding the players’ final order of merit and ranking positions. There will be a lot of interest in following the tournament results as it approaches the end of a hugely exciting season.
“This year’s Hero Women’s Indian Open field assembled by the LET is one of the strongest all year, attracting players from over 25 different countries. We have three life members in the field with Laura Davies, Trish Johnson and Sophie Gustafson, last year’s Henderson Money List winner Lee-Anne Pace, 17 tournament winners including rookie sensation Caroline Hedwall.”
Mrs. Kavita Singh, President of the WGAI, said, “With Hero MotoCorp as the sponsor and the support of Ladies European Tour (LET) and Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT), the WGAI has seen the Women’s Indian Open grow into one of the biggest events in the region. Now in its fifth year, the Hero Women’s Indian Open has a purse of US $ 300,000. I am also thankful to the sponsors for supporting the fledgling Women’s Professional Golf Tour. I am sure as years roll by women’s golf take its due place as one of the avenues for a viable career for Indian sportswomen.”
Mr. Pawan Munjal, Managing Director and CEO, Hero MotoCorp, said, “Sport has been a big priority for us at the Hero MotoCorp. We are committed to building a strong nation through sport as can be seen by our support to cricket, golf, hockey, football and last year the Commonwealth Games. Hero backed men’s golf through the years and has been sponsoring the Hero Indian Open for the last seven years, and last year we added Women’s Golf Association of India to our sporting family.”
The stellar field is headlined by the legendary Laura Davies, who despite the late arrival of her golf bag, won the 2010 Hero Women’s Indian open and boasts of more than 80 international titles, including four Majors. She also won the British Open, before it became a Major on the LPGA Tour. Winner of seven Ladies European Tour Money List honour, the 48-year-old veteran Davies, returns to defend her title. She won five titles in 2010 and finished second on the Henderson Money List.
Also in the field is the 37-year-old Sophie Gustafson, a four-time Henderson Money List champion, and winner of 29 titles internationally, including five on the LPGA and 14 on the LET.
South African Lee-Anne Pace, 30, and winner of five titles and the Henderson Money List title, is back for a second taste of Hero Women’s Indian Open.
The field also includes the flamboyant Christina Kim of the United States, who has played on the LPAGA Tour also. She joined the LET IN 2011 and immediately won the Sicilian ladies Italian Open. She had two top-10s in Majors in 2010 and was third at the 2009 British Open.
Also teeing up will be one of the new and emerging stars of Ladies golf is Henderson Rookie Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, who has won three titles this year and is currently leading the race to become the Rolex Rookie of the Year.
Other prominent players in the field are 2007 EMAAR-MGF Indian Ladies Masters winner, Gwladys Nocera from France, former LPGA player, Jennifer Rosales of the Philippines and Thailand’s Phatlum Pornanong, winner of the 2008 and 2009 Indian Open before the event became co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour in 2010.
Davies, Gustafson and Hedwall were also part of the winning European Solheim Cup team in September, playing against United States.
The Women’s Indian Open has proved to be a stepping stone for many golfers in the region. The inaugural winner of Indian Open in 2007, Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei, is now World No. 1 and already at 23 has won five Majors, an unprecedented record in women’s golf. The 21-year-old Thai Phatlum Pornanong, who achieved back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009, is now one of the stars of Asian Ladies golf.
Interestingly, the field has six players, who between them have won the European Order of Merit 15 times since 1990.
Mr. Koichi Kato, President of LAGT, said “Ladies Asian Golf Tour brought many promising golfers to Hero Women’s Indian Open even in the limited fields and they will be sure to show you their fantastic performance on the course. When the players visit India and experience its culture and meet its people, they will be sure to enjoy it not only for an exciting international sporting endeavor but also for an opportunity to share the story of India with the rest of the world.”
The award-winning host club, DLF Golf and Country Club, judged as one of the best in South Asia and Asia, was recently named as the No. 1 course in India. It has been the venue of the event ever since its inception in 2007. It is situated in the heart of DLF City in Gurgaon, Haryana, just 15 minutes away from the International Airport. The rugged Aravali Range forms a dramatic backdrop to the Arnold Palmer designed course. The stunning parkland course sits amid sparkling lakes, meandering streams and a variety of flora and fauna. It is a par 72, 18-hole course, which boasts world-class fairways, fast, true greens and a majestic clubhouse.
The course has played host to world-class events including the men’s Hero Indian Open, the Johnnie Walker Classic, Avantha Masters, the DLF Masters and the past four editions of the Women’s Indian Open.
SKILLS CHALLENGE ON DECEMBER 6
The tournament will be preceded by a Skills Challenge at 4.30 pm on December 6. The Challenge will include an “Asia v Europe” contest over long driver, 100-yard pitch, long bunker shot and a long putt. Each team will nominate 2 players to compete per skill. Each player can hit 5 shots on the drives; 3 shots on the pitch and bunker shot and putt. The longest drive / closest to the pin will count towards the competition.
ABOUT THE LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR:
Formed over 30 years ago, the Ladies European Tour (LET) aims to promote worldwide interest in the game of golf as well as to further the interest of its playing members. It has spawned some of the world’s greatest players such as Annika Sorenstam and Laura Davies.
Website: ladieseuropeantour.com, Twitter: letgolf.
ABOUT LADIES ASIAN GOLF TOUR:
Formed in 2005 and taking over where the previously known Kosaido Ladies Asian Golf Circuit left off in 2003. LAGT is more than just a Tour; it has lofty aspirations for the development of Asian ladies’ golf locally and internationally. It has a strong association with the R&A, Asia Pacific golf Confederation, the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour.
ABOUT WOMEN’S GOLF ASSOCIATION OF INDIA:
The Women Golf Association of India is a non-profit organization whose objective is to uplift women through the medium of sport. ‘Empowerment of women through sport’, is the motto for the WGAI Tour, which was established in 2006. The Women’s Indian Open was first held in 2007.