This week, Cheyenne Woods is making her debut appearance in the Oates Vic Open, where the women are playing for equal prize money with the men in one of the most innovative tournaments in world golf.
The women, from the LET and ALPG Tours, are playing on the same courses as the men from the PGA Tour of Australasia at 13th Beach Golf Links at Barwon Heads near Melbourne, teeing off in alternate groups. They share a driving range, a practice putting green and clubhouse, which is a win-win situation for all parties, not least of whom the fans.
From Phoenix, Woods is the daughter of Earl Dennison Woods Jr., Tiger Woods’ half-brother and she would love to play in a similar event with her uncle, who has returned to action after having back surgery last year.
“You could do teams, you could do partners and I would pick him as my partner. I hope he would pick me! I think that would just be awesome,” said Woods, who opened with a 5-under 68 to sit one stroke off the lead on Thursday.
“I think that is one of the biggest things that I love about this week, that they do value the equality in both men and women’s golf together. I think a lot of tours and sponsors can learn from that. You see it in the tennis game, just watching tennis the last few weeks, the Aussie Open. I think that hopefully in the next few years it will get more like this.”
“I love the format. I remember watching the live feed last year and I thought that it was such a unique format. It’s different from any professional event that we play. I think a lot of tours could learn from this format because it brings so many different fans to come and appreciate not only the men’s game, but the women’s game as well. From a players’ point of view, I love it. I love being alongside the men and from a fans perspective, it’s nice to get the best of both worlds.
“I think that this is great for the game: women’s game and men’s game. A lot of tours could take something from this, including the LPGA and PGA Tour and I’m hoping that in the next few years we can get a little something similar to this.”
Plenty of players have the chance to spend time with family and friends at this week’s Oates Vic Open.
Husband and wife Stacey and Darren Peters are both competing, as are former champions Marianne Skarpnord and Richard Green, who became engaged a week before they both won their respective events in 2015. Other couples who are playing include Hannah Green and Jared Felton, as well as Deyen Lawson and Alexandra Orchard. Meanwhile, world number 15 amateur Min Woo Lee has joined his sister, the former winner and Australia’s number one golfer Minjee Lee.
“You see a lot of friends across the tours and that camaraderie would be nice to see from a fans perspective,” Woods said. “It creates an entirely new environment when it comes to a golf tournament. It’s really exciting to be here and I’m excited that I’m able to experience the format and looking forward, hopefully in years to come we’ll have more events like this.”
Former winner Stacey Peters also hopes that the Oates Vic Open concept can be followed and her husband, Darren, commented: “I think it’s great for spectators to watch. They can learn a lot from the women’s game and their short games are incredible and they hit the ball dead straight.”
Fellow Victorian David Bransdon, (above), who fired an 8-under 64 on the Creek Course to share the first-round lead, was equally enthusiastic. He said: “I have been playing professional golf for a long time and this is different to normal. It’s great playing a tournament alongside the ladies, it creates a different atmosphere and it gets different people involved.
“Having the men and women at the same venue is great for the spectators, to be able to come to one tournament and watch us both.
“We have been playing 72 holes stroke play forever and a day. Golf is now looking at different ideas to spice things up. The European Tour has the clock shot tournament later in the year, we have the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth stoke play/match play hybrid next week and the Vic Open has been played in this format since 2012. Change is good.
“Having the men and women playing together; we complement each other, I think we each add value to the other and sponsors like it. I think it’s great that they split the prize money down the middle; tennis does a similar thing with equal prize money.
“The LET’s involvement brings lots of the European women to the tournament and adds real depth to the field, but it also raises interest in the tournament around the world.
“It’s great that the tournament is being broadcast around the world through PGA TV, it’s just great promotion for our sport.”