A large contingent of the world’s top international players are set to grace the fairways in the Oates Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Links when the 2017 Ladies European Tour season tees off in Australia from Thursday.

A total of 144 of the world’s most talented female players will tee it up in Barwon Heads, including Beth Allen of the USA, India’s Aditi Ashok and English pair Florentyna Parker and Melissa Reid, who all enjoyed sensational seasons in 2016.

Reigning LET Order of Merit winner Beth Allen will start her 2017 campaign at Oates Vic Open, after recording back-to-back wins at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France and Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi late last season on her way to the top of the Order of Merit.

Allen notched a further six top 10s in 2016 and made more birdies than any other player on the LET throughout the season, with 224.

08/12/2016 Ladies European Tour 2016: Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, UAE. 7-10 December. Beth Allen of the USA during the first round. Credit: Tristan Jones

Ashok turned professional 12 months ago and the 18-year-old’s first season on the Ladies European Tour was highlighted by back-to-back wins at the Hero 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.

Another player who had an incredible 2016 season, finishing third on the Order of Merit, Parker had eight top 10 finishes last year and the two-time LET winner will be looking to build on that momentum.

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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.

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Returning for the fifth consecutive year to the Oates Vic Open will be Dame Laura Davies and 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.

Gal300Along 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 a strong start to her 2017 LPGA Tour campaign in the Bahamas last week with a T31 finish.

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.

American Nelly Korda, who made her rookie debut on the LPGA Tour last week with a share of fifth at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, will be looking to follow in her big sister Jessica’s footsteps with a win in Australia.

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.

The 2017 Oates Vic Open is a sanctioned event on the Ladies European Tour, ALPG 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. For the full list of entries click here.