China’s Lin Xiyu says that this week’s World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Resort Dongguan will be the ideal warm up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where she will be targeting individual and national glory.
Although only individual medals will be awarded when golf returns to the Games this summer for the first time since 1904, the World Ladies Championship’s innovative format includes a team competition based on the combined scores of two players from the same country.
Lin said: “This tournament is kind of similar to the Olympics because we are playing for ourselves but also as part of a team and I’m here with Pan Yan-Hong. We were part of the same Province team before, when we played on the National team, so we know each other. We are a team but we are playing our own games.
“I think that will give me experience and also Mission Hills and the National Team have helped me a lot throughout my career, so I think it’s an important tournament and I’m glad to be here.”
This is a big year for many of the Olympic hopefuls in the field of 126 competitors, who have taken their preparations to the next level in 2016. Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen is looking fitter, stronger and hungrier than ever after a successful start to the season, which included a third place finish in the recent RACV Ladies Masters in Australia.
The 22-year-old, who won her maiden title at the 2015 Helsingborg Open, said: “I’m not certain to play in Rio yet but every tournament is a great opportunity to get more World Ranking points and this is a big event so hopefully I’ll play well.”
Fellow Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen, 20, agreed. “There is a long way to go until the Olympics but every tournament is an opportunity to play well and qualify.”
The other Olympic prospects in the field include Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark, Gwladys Nocera from France, Marianne Skarpnord from Norway, Finnish pair Ursula Wikstrom and Noora Tamminen, Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, Christine Wolf from Austria and Maria Verchenova of Russia.
After four years at Mission Hills Haikou, this is the first time that the World Ladies Championship will be played on the acclaimed Olazabal Course, a three-time venue for the World Cup of Golf, at Mission Hills Dongguan.
That means there will be little advantage for the rest of the field over world number 23 Ko Jin-Young, who is making her debut in the championship. She will partner Lee Jung-Min in the team event, representing South Korea.
Ko hopes to become the third straight Korean winner of the individual title following the success of Park Inbee and So Yeon Ryu in 2014 and 2015 respectively, when they combined to win the team event.
Ko said: “I’m really excited because it is my first time playing here and the Chinese people really like golf. It’s a little bit difficult because there are too many bunkers and the rough is a different grass to what I’m used to, so a little bit interesting, but I hope to win the tournament.”
LET Order of Merit leader Beth Allen from the United States believes that the participation of Korea’s top players will improve the event’s international standing, now that it is tri-sanctioned with players from the KLPGA joining those from the China LPGA and LET.
She said: “Involving the KLPGA is a big deal because they’re a massive force in women’s golf and Asia so that’s really important for this event. A win for any Ladies European Tour player here would be really good because it’s a really strong field.”
As well as a new venue, an upsized field of 126 competitors and the tri-sanctioning of the tournament, a further development is a 33 per cent increase in total prize money to US $800,000. With US $700,000 for the individual strokeplay tournament alone, the winner will earn US $105,000.