Left to Right: Brittany Lang, Mika Miyazato, Lydia Ko, Charley Hull, Brooke Henderson, Michelle Wie with butlers Ian Turland and Enrique Amoedo-Oubina of Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery.
The 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open launched with a star-studded English tea party on Tuesday when world number 27 Charley Hull hosted world number one Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson (2), Ariya Jutanugarn (7), Brittany Lang (20), Mika Miyazato (47) and Michelle Wie (108) at her home club, Woburn.
As well as the 40th anniversary of the tournament and Woburn Golf Club, this week Lydia Ko is celebrating her 40th week at the top of the World Rankings.
Following five wins around the world already this season, including the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Women’s Open on the Ladies European Tour and her second Major title at the ANA Inspiration in California, the 19-year-old Kiwi is certainly enjoying her time in England. Her preparations included catching a musical in the capital and sampling a few local eateries recommended by Woburn’s male touring professional Ian Poulter.
“We asked some friends which musical. I’ve watched three, four other musicals here in London. I said, “Hey, what’s popular right now? I watched Miss Saigon, Mama Mia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, what’s my next go-to?” And they said Matilda. I had a great time. Matilda, most of the actors that are doing it are actually kids, and it’s amazing how they can memorise all their words and the lyrics to the songs. I can’t memorise a whole verse in a song. It was really cool as an event perspective. I guess kind of takes you back to childhood memories, even though that’s not too far away from me. That’s something I’d like to do and I just got to see the town a little bit.”
Brooke Henderson, who is still only 18 and captured her first Major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last month, hasn’t had such a wide cultural experience yet but likes what she has seen of the Marquess’ Course. Henderson said: “It’s my second Ricoh Women’s British Open, and I love the course this year. It’s not the traditional links style. Kind of more tree‑lined, which I won my first major on, and also my two other LPGA Tour wins are on tree‑lined courses. Definitely some good vibes and some good feelings going into the week.”
Both of the world’s top two players are looking forward to representing their countries, not only in this week’s Major Championship, but also in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games next month.
Ko said: “I’m super excited. Ever since they announced that golf may be in the Olympics, and then for them finalising, I said: I want to get myself to Rio. I would love the chance to be an Olympian. Golf isn’t the fastest sport. We are not running. It’s not speed golf. We are not throwing something. But there’s a huge biomechanic side of it. There’s still a large physical side part of it. It’s huge mentally, as well. I think golf deserves to be in the Olympics, and I think this is a way that a lot of juniors and fans and people outside the golfing industry can get into golf itself and get more interest in it. So I think this is a great step forward.”
Henderson added: “I respect everyone’s opinion and everybody that pulled out. There’s a lot of stuff going on in Rio that we can’t really control. Zika, health issues, political issues, whatever it is. But at the same time, it’s the Olympics. They are going to try to do everything they can to make it safe for us, the athletes. I don’t plan on venturing anywhere. Just get into Rio, stay at the Olympic Village, go to the golf course and come home, nothing crazy. It’s kind of an opportunity of a lifetime to go down there and experience it for the first time. My sister and I are excited to go.”
The Ricoh Women’s British Open, which is the final women’s championship before the Rio Olympic Games, tees off on Thursday, at 6.30am local time and is the fourth women’s Major of 2016.