Australian Ladies Professional Golf
World’s Best Golfers to Hit the Coast
Date: 23rd February 2016
By: GENÉ STEPHAN

WOMEN’S GOLF HAS BEEN SYNONYMOUS WITH THE GOLD COAST FOR ALMOST THREE DECADES FORGING A PATHWAY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUCCESSIVE WORLD NUMBER ONES INCLUDING ANNIKA SORENSTAM, KARRIE WEBB, LAURA DAVIES, LORENA OCHOA AND CURRENT CHAMPION LYDIA KO.

The world’s most influential golfers have all played here and have kept coming back year-after-year – a record event founder and tournament chairman Bob Tuohy is proud of.

“The RACV Ladies Masters has a tremendous history spanning three decades at Royal Pines during which time it has seen many of the world’s best golfers and rising stars contest the coveted title,” Tuohy says.

“The line-up at this year’s event, to be played from February 25 to 28, will for the first time experience the $11 million redeveloped 18-hole lay-out establishing a new era in the tournament’s history.”

Now in its 27th year, the Ladies Masters is the second longest running annual sporting event on the Gold Coast behind the Magic Millions, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last month.

“We have survived the test of time which is testimony to the quality of the tournament and the attraction of the location,” Tuohy says.

“It goes back to when we first started in 1990 when there was not much for women’s professional golf.”

WOMEN’S GOLF HAS BEEN SYNONYMOUS WITH THE GOLD COAST FOR ALMOST THREE DECADES FORGING A PATHWAY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUCCESSIVE WORLD NUMBER ONES INCLUDING ANNIKA SORENSTAM, KARRIE WEBB, LAURA DAVIES, LORENA OCHOA AND CURRENT CHAMPION LYDIA KO.

The world’s most influential golfers have all played here and have kept coming back year-after-year – a record event founder and tournament chairman Bob Tuohy is proud of.

“The RACV Ladies Masters has a tremendous history spanning three decades at Royal Pines during which time it has seen many of the world’s best golfers and rising stars contest the coveted title,” Tuohy says.

“The line-up at this year’s event, to be played from February 25 to 28, will for the first time experience the $11 million redeveloped 18-hole lay-out establishing a new era in the tournament’s history.”

Now in its 27th year, the Ladies Masters is the second longest running annual sporting event on the Gold Coast behind the Magic Millions, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last month.

“We have survived the test of time which is testimony to the quality of the tournament and the attraction of the location,” Tuohy says.

“It goes back to when we first started in 1990 when there was not much for women’s professional golf.”

In his search for players around the world in 1990, Tuohy was approached by US Open champion Jane Geddes, who was playing in Japan, and keen to come to Australia.

She played and won the event twice with other big names, like world No.1 Ai Mayazato of Japan and Australian glamour girl Jan Stephensen, consistently coming back to support the tournament.

The popularity of the tournament grew which created the base, which has made the Ladies Masters one of the most prestigious tournaments today.

“We had the pleasure of launching eight-time winner Karrie Webb’s career, and Annika Sorenstam won here three times,” the event founder says.

“There was 16-year-old Amy Yang who won here as an amateur, and Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Ji-Yai Shin who went on to become world No.1s.

“It is an event which has withstood the test of time.” Australian Ladies Professional Golf chief executive Karen Lunn said the tournament, which is co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour, values the support of RACV Royal Pines, Tourism and Events Queensland and the City of Gold Coast Council.

“The ALPG looks forward to welcoming players from more than 27 countries to the Gold Coast which is one of the players favourite destinations,” Lunn, a former Tour player, says. “This event has been extremely important, both to the Gold Coast, but also the women’s professional game in Australia.

“The Australian Open is our national championship but has been played far less than the Ladies Masters.”

She said the Masters has helped hold the women’s golf schedule together especially for a number of years when the Australian Open was not contested.

“The Gold Coast is a great selling feature for any sporting event which has contributed to players being willing to travel from the US and Europe to play here,” Lunn says.

“The players come from the Northern hemisphere winter and want to play and compete and that, coupled with the beautiful and relaxed Gold Coast location, is a major bonus. “Now, with the new lay-out, the golf course will come into its own and establish itself as a true championship location.”

She said the tournament honour board reads like a who-is-who of world golf.

“You have people like Sorenstam, Webb and Davies who have won multiple events but you also have players like Cheyenne Woods who have launched their careers here,” Lunn says. “She is back this year and then there is Su Oh who won here last year in only her second professional tournament.”

Leading this year’s field will be one of the world’s most exciting new talents, Canadian world No. 11 Brooke Henderson, who will be making her first appearance at Royal Pines.

“At just 18, Henderson is a sensational player and has already won on the LPGA Tour in the US and is going to be golf’s next megastar,” Tuohy says.

“The Ladies Masters has long been a stepping-stone for golf’s future stars and we have had a reputation for unearthing new faces with plenty of golfing ability.

“Webb played her first professional event at Royal Pines and we also introduced Tseng in 2010 as an amateur and a year later she won the tournament.”

Last year, Henderson burst onto the scene when she won the LPGA Tour’s Cambia Portland Classic by eight shots and finished in the top-five at the Women’s US Open and Women’s PGA Championship. She was an amateur at the time and her victory was the first by a Canadian since Lorie Kane in 2001.

Henderson is only the third player under the age of 18 to win on the LPGA Tour after New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and American Lexi Thompson. Joining Henderson will be Korea’s Shin – a two-time British Open champion and former world No.1. The 27-year-old will make her fourth appearance at Royal Pines adding star-power to the field, which includes seven Solheim Cup players as well as former champions Woods, Oh and Davies.

Shin has 45 professional victories worldwide including 11 on the LPGA Tour, 21 on the LPGA of Korea Tour, 11 on the LPGA of Japan Tour and one on the Asian Golf Tour.

Woods adds additional star power with her connection to Tiger Woods who is her uncle. Making her third successive appearance after winning her first professional tournament here in 2014, Woods has always looked the part on the golf course – stylish and oozing charisma. As a rookie in 2014, Woods soon worked out a strategy that fitted perfectly with her ability to play to her strengths and finished two shots clear of Australian sensation Lee, an amateur at the time.

Tuohy says Woods was “an absolute asset to the event”. “Cheyenne will add spark to the tournament,” he says. “Apart from being a past champion, Cheyenne is a very good player. “She also has a nice presence, a lot of charisma and goes about her job on the golf course in a professional manner.

“In the US, she has a huge following via Twitter, Facebook and on television, which is important when it comes to the RACV Ladies Masters.”

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Kate Jones, said securing the talented Woods was a win for the tournament and Queensland tourism. “It’s fantastic to have Cheyenne back in Queensland where she scored her very first tour victory in 2014,” Jones says.

“The name Woods is synonymous with world golf and Cheyenne will be a big drawcard bringing thousands of visitors to the Gold Coast. “Securing marquee players such as Cheyenne helps Tourism and Events Queensland achieve the objective of inspiring more visitors to experience the best destination on earth, Queensland.”

This year’s tournament will again feature a Junior Masters tournament starting February 22. Since in inauguration in 2011, the curtain-raiser to the “main event” has grown in stature and now attracts more than 50 players from Australia and overseas.

This year players from Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand will join a strong contingent of Australian players.

The tournament winner will receive an invitation to play in the 2016 RACV Ladies Masters. Last year, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads Golf Club’s rising junior star Rebecca Kay qualified to play in the RACV Ladies Masters and performed extremely well.

The 17-year-old finished in a tie for sixth place – just five shots behind champion Oh. “I’m a big fan of promoting and introducing new young talent and the reason why we introduced the Junior Masters to engage with the wider golfing community and promote the game at grass roots level,” Tuohy says.

The event will be broadcast live in Australia by the ABC and internationally, providing valuable destination branding for the Gold Coast and generating millions of dollars in economic benefit to the region.

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