The Queens presented by Kowa tees off at Miyoshi Country Club in Japan on Friday. At a press conference on Thursday, Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) Team Captain Karrie Webb, Ladies European Tour (LET) Team Captain Gwladys Nocera, Korean LPGA Captain Ha-Neul Kim and LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) Team Captain Misuzu Narita revealed their pairings for Friday’s opening four-ball match.
Start Times (local) – Four-balls (Best-ball)
9:00 – Ritsuko Ryu and Lala Anai (KLPGA) v. Holly Clyburn and Florentyna Parker (LET)
9:12 – Karrie Webb and Hannah Green (ALPG) v. Ji-Hyun Oh and Jin-Young Ko (KLPGA)
9:24 – Felicity Johnson and Lee-Anne Pace (LET) v. Stacey Peters and Cathryn Bristow (ALPG)
9:36 – Ha-Neul Kim and Ji Hyun Kim (KLPA) v. Misuzu Narita and Mamiko Higo (JLPGA)
9:48 – Yukari Nishiyama and Momoko Ueda (JLPGA) v. Sarah Jane Smith and Sarah Kemp (ALPG)
10:00 – Carly Booth and Olafia Kristinsdottir (LET) v. Seon-Woo Bae and Jeong-Eun Lee (KLPGA)
10:12 – Hae-Rym Kim and Ji-Hyun Kim (KLPGA) v. Mel Reid and Annabel Dimmock (LET)
10:24 – Katherine Kirk and Whitney Hillier (ALPG) v. Ai Suzuki and Fumika Kawagishi (JLPGA)
Captain Webb, a rookie on the ALPG team, put herself out at the first opportunity, in the second match alongside fellow first-timer Hannah Green. Captains Kim and Narita will also play on Friday, but Nocera has chosen to rest herself on the first day.
Nocera said: “When you make the pairings, the goal is to put out the players who are at their best and my players are young and pumped to win this tournament. That attitude has to remain. We have finished third twice in the past and now we have a new story to write.”
The ALPG team has twice finished in fourth place and Webb said: “Apart from Hannah and I, the rest of the players in my team have already played in this tournament, so that has really helped them to figure out the pairings. I hope I can bring something special to the team. I don’t know if it will improve our performance but I hope that all of our combined experiences and my own experience gained throughout my career will help us. I know that our performance was greatly improved last year and hopefully we can improve from there.”
Kim and Narita will play each other in the fourth of the eight matches and also hope to prove themselves as worthy first-time captains.
Narita said: “I can’t believe that I’m here representing Japan. When I got the offer, I wondered, am I fit for this job?’ I want to be a strong leader and hope that I can bring the team together, have great fun and play to win. Japan is really strong in the doubles and I based my pairings on watching the players play in the previous tournaments.”
Kim said: “I think I am the oldest in my group and my team is very young. I have more experience so I would like to bring that to the team and contribute to another victory.”
While the Koreans are the favourites, as the defending champions with the lowest combined average World Ranking, Nocera is feeling quietly confident.
“It’s match play and anything can happen. All the LET players love the course and they all hit it pretty long. It’s quite open so they can be aggressive. As always, it will be a matter of making putts, but from what I have seen, they are making them.
“In terms of my strategy, I tried to put in each group an aggressive player and a steady player. For example, Holly is fairly aggressive and Flory is very consistent and can hole a lot of putts so she is a good partner.
“In our second match, I would say Felicity is more aggressive but Lee-Anne is playing great and doesn’t miss much; she’s like a metronome, so I think that will give Flic more confidence to take some risks without worrying.
“In our third match, Olafia is a very steady player with some experience in the US. She is calm and she analyses all the shots and she’s playing really well, which will also give confidence to Carly, who is also playing well. Carly is the type of player who the harder she wants to hit the ball, the better she hits it. If she has a player like Olafia at her side it will bring out the best in her.
“In our fourth and final match, Mel and Annabel are really good friends and they get along well together, which is important in team events. Mel is a very aggressive player and Annabel is too, but she’s a younger player so I think she will feel more comfortable playing with Mel, whom she can lean on a bit.”
This is the third consecutive year of The Queens presented by Kowa and historically, both of the last two years, the team that won the four-balls won the tournament. In 2015, the JLPGA led the Friday four-balls by five points and went on to claim the trophy, while the KLPGA Team won the four-balls after they were switched to Saturday in 2016 and they too went on to claim the win.
However, this year, the order of play has been changed again, so that the singles will be played on Saturday, followed foursomes on the final day. The top two teams ranked according to points earned will play the ‘Championship Final’ while the other two teams will play against each other for third and fourth place. In each match, a victory is worth two points, with a one point for a match halved.