As the 2017 ALPG Tour comes to a close and our players take a well-earned break to prepare for the rest of 2017, let's take a look back at the highlights of our season!
The first event up in 2017, the Mulpha Norwest Pro-am was held at the stunning Castle Hill Country Club in Sydney’s north-west, where the players were forced to brave the record heat wave conditions. With the thermometer hitting 47 degrees celsius at one point in the afternoon round it was a struggle for many, especially our many of our overseas visitors, who had come from below zero temperatures in the northern hemisphere.
It was Brisbane rookie Emily McLennan who emerged victorious, shooting a 5 under pay round of 69 to to claim her first professional victory, admitting that she had been fortunate to play in the morning wave and avoid the extreme afternoon conditions.
Next stop was just down the M2 to the rolling terrain of the picturesque Pennant Hills Golf Club for the Goldkey Financial ALPG Pro-am played over 36 holes, where West Australian rookie Hannah Green claimed her first, and what many good judges predict will not be her last professional win in a sudden death playoff over compatriot Whitney Hillier. For Hillier it was yet another disappointment but she had done nothing wrong, with Green making a fine birdie 2 at the third extra hole.
From Pennant Hills the tour headed to a very familiar venue in Oatlands Golf Club just outside Parramatta. For many years the Oatlands layout had been the venue for the Bing Lee Fujitsu NSW Women’s Open, so it is a homecoming of such for many. The event was also held over 36 holes, once again being played in stifling conditions, with highly regarded Scottish rookie Gemma Dryburgh braving the heat to secure her first professional victory defeating New South Welsh star Rebecca Artis by a shot.
All three Sydney events were a great success and boasted record fields in 2017, with players from more than 20 different countries visiting Sydney for the pro-ams.
The tour then headed north to Queensland’s Gold Coast for the ALPG Hope Island Pro-am, played at Links Hope Island, where local resident Rebecca Artis andGoldkey Financial champ Hannah Green were forced to share the trophy and the spoils due to fading light.
It was the ALPG’s first visit to the Links at Hope Island and the feedback from the players on both the course, its condition and the facilities was fantastic.
We then travelled 30 minutes down the M1 to RACV Royal Pines Resort for the first major event on the 2017 ALPG Tour calendar, the inaugural RACV Gold Coast Challenge.
A fantastic field was assembled for the new tournament which was ALPG’s first major venture in running and staging our own event, and we welcomed visitors from 23 different countries to the tournament.
This was certainly a challenge for an organisation such as ALPG boasting just three full-time employees, however it was also a great experience for us knowing that we were in control and that the event was in our own hands.
The format that we settled on for the tournament was along the lines of the ATT Challenge on the PGA Tour and the Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour, where for the first two days the professionals would play alongside amateurs in a 4BBB competition, run in conjunction with the tournament proper.
After 36 holes the field was cut to 50 professionals and ties, and the professionals alone played the final round to determine the champion.
One of the biggest disappointments we had in the lead-up to the tournament was the withdrawal of Jiyai Shin less than a week prior to the start of the tournament. Jiyai is a class act on and off the course and was herself shattered that a recurrent elbow injury would rule her out of not just this event but also the upcoming Australian Open. She called me personally to explain her situation and asked me to pass on her apologies to everyone involved. We wish her all the best with her recovery and look forward to seeing her down-under in 2018
TheRACV Gold Coast Challenge was won in the end by Thailand’s Prima Thammaraks, who claimed her first professional victory by holing a 5-metre putt on the final green to defeat Australian Sarah Jane Smith, who had earlier signed for a flawless final round 68.
The victory also secured Thammaraks a start in the Oates Victorian Open and the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. With only conditional status on the US LPGA Tour in 2017 the Bangkok resident had been planning to try to pre-qualify for both events but those plans we quickly quashed.
Impressive Gold Coast youngster Rebecca Kay finished alone in third place at 2 under par, while fellow Queenslander Katherine Kirk finished in fourth position.
The feedback we have had from the amateur players who enjoyed the “money can’t buy” experience playing alongside the professionals in a major ALPG tournament has been fantastic. We want to continue to build on the momentum we have created with this event and grow the tournament to the next level, to do this we will need to attract increased corporate and government support which we have already started working on.
I would like to say a big thank you to all of our event partners; RACV, City of Gold Coast, Bond University, Schweppes, Yusen Logistics, Volvik, Golf Queensland, Cutter and Buck, ClubCar and Women’s Golf Gold Coast for their support.
From Queensland’s magnificent Gold Coast we headed down to another fantastic venue, The 13th Beach Links at Barwon Heads for the 2017 Oates Vic Open.
So much has been written about this tournament to the point where it has received worldwide recognition for its format, whereby the women and men play at the same venue for the same level of prizemoney.
Recently there have been rumours that the US PGA and LPGA Tours are looking to follow suit and hold a tournament with a similar model in 2018 which is a great testament to Golf Victoria and their tournament partners.
Once again a world-class field was assembled for the women’s event, with many players from the US LPGA Tour teeing it up with their compatriots from the ALPG and Ladies European Tour. Players from 28 different countries competed, with 32 of them having previously won tournaments on the world’s major women’s tours.
The leaderboard heading into Sunday’s final round resembled a whos who of women’s golf, and after a hard-fought contest in extremely tough conditions Englishwoman Melissa Reid finally emerged victorious, defeating her Solheim Cup teammate Sandra Gal at the third playoff hole.
On the men’s side, New South Welshman Dimi Papadatos fought off the challengers to win by 2 shots from Adam Bland and Jake McLeod.
It was announced that next year the prizemoney for the tournament in 2018 will increase from AUD$1m to AUD$1.3 which should result in even stronger fields moving forward.
From 13th Beach the tour headed to South Australia for the jewel in the crown of the ALPG Tour, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open held at the magnificent Royal Adelaide Golf Club.
Once again a world-class field was assembled, including world number 1 Kiwi Lydia Ko, number 2 Thai sensation Ariya Jutanagarn, along with Karrie Webb and our Australian Olympians from 2016 Minjee Lee and Su Oh.
The Royal Adelaide layout proved to be a true test for the players, and it was world number 6 Hana Jang who broke out of the pack in dramatic fashion to storm to victory on Sunday. It was also a great showing from our ALPG members, with nine making the halfway cut, and Queenslander Sarah-Jane Smith securing her best ever Australian Open finish, a tie for 3rd place with compatriot Minjee Lee.
The galleries were once again huge and congratulations must go to Golf Australia, the South Australian Government and the City of Adelaide whose foresight to bring the Australian Open to South Australia has proven to be a stroke of genius and really taken the tournament to the next level.
With the major tournaments done and dusted for 2017 there was still the 2017 ALPG ClubCar Series to be decided, and our members headed back Queensland for the Brisbane Invitation at the beautiful McLeod Country Golf Club. In its third year, the event needed a bit of luck with two near washouts in 2015 and 2016, and under brilliant sunshine Queenslander Ellen Davies-Graham broke through for her first professional victory shooting a superb 5 under par 68 for a 3 shot victory over the chasing pack at 2 under par.
The ALPG then headed down the Pacific Highway into New South Wales for the final event of the 2016/17 tour for the BWAC Regional Employment Services Pro-Am. The sleepy oceanside town of Yamba is one of the player’s favourite stops of the year and the testing layout is well worth the trip to play.
Sydney’s Sarah Kemp walked away the winner after shooting a superb 4 under par round of 69 to claim her eighth ALPG title, and her first since her win at the Brisbane Invitational in 2015.
The 31-year-old obviously has a soft spot for the Yamba Golf and Country Club layout, having finished third and fifth in her previous two visits.
There were also another couple of battles unfolding at Yamba, the 2017 ALPG ClubCar Series was decided, with West Australian rookie sensation Hannah Green taking out the first-place bonus cheque of $6500, Rebecca Artis was second taking home a cheque for $3500, Whitney Hillier finished in third place winning $2500, ALPG rookie Emily McLennan was fourth winning $1500 while Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh finished in 5th place winning $1000.
A huge thanks must go to Kevin Gates and ClubCar for their continued support.
The other subplot unfolding was for what has been fondly nicknamed the “McYamba Cup” by the players. McLeod Country Golf Club and Yamba Golf Club had together come up with a bonus of $5000 for the leading player across both events. Brisbane Invitational winner Ellen Davies-Graham was delighted to take home the bonus money prior to starting a Physiotherapy degree on the Sunshine Coast the following week.
The final accolade for the season was the announcement of the 2016/17 ALPG Order of Merit winner, Queensland’s Sarah-Jane Smith, who continued her solid form from the LPGA Tour in 2016 to take this honour for the first time in her career.
Thanks again to all our event sponsors and partners for making all of tour pro-ams and tournaments possible. A huge thank you also to all of the amateurs who came along to play in our pro-ams, we really hope you enjoyed your experience of playing alongside our wonderful women professionals.
The ALPG’s focus now turns to our National Women’s Clinics, please click on the link below to find a clinic near you!
Follow ALPG on Twitter @ALPGTour Instagram alpgtour and Facebook Australian Ladies Professional Golf