Photograph courtesy of Tristan Jones Photography
England’s Georgia Hall claimed her first professional victory two years ago at the Oates Vic Open, and after a superb 2017 season will start as the co-favourite at this week's event along with Australia's leading player Minjee Lee.
Play will get underway tomorrow morning at 7:00am local time at 13th Beach Golf Links in Barwon Heads, with the 21-year-old from Dorset teeing off at 8:00am on the Creek Course, playing alongside Australia's Su Oh and American Cheyenne Woods.
The Solheim Cup star said: “I’ve got some great memories, as being here was a really happy moment for me. It’s great to be back after missing out on last year.”
The unique event is played over two courses at 13th Beach for the first two days, the Creek and the Beach, with a field of 144 players from the ALPG Tour and Ladies European Tour competing in the women’s tournament.
The men’s Oates Vic Open runs simultaneously, with a field from the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia teeing off in alternate groups with the women.
The Beach Course, which hosts the weekend’s play, is Hall’s favourite.
She said: “I think they are both quite similar in difficulty, but in different ways. I think the Beach course is a bit shorter and on the Creek course the greens are more difficult. I like both courses, but I think I prefer the Beach just slightly over the Creek.
“Funnily enough, I remember every single golf hole on each course. It’s pretty much the same, but me as a person, I’m a lot different than two years ago, as in my golf and myself. I’ve grown up a lot and my mentality is a lot better and my golf has improved a lot, so I’m back as a more grown-up Georgia and I’m excited for Thursday to get the week going.”
Hall won the event in 2016, the year before it was first sanctioned by the LET and despite seven top-10s on the tour in 2017, she is still looking for her maiden official win on the circuit.
“This is a big tournament for me, simply because it was the biggest win I’ve had and the first tournament of the year is important because I want to get the year off to a good start. I really want to do well this week and hopefully I’ll win,” she said.
“This is my first event of the season, so I’ve had almost two months off. I want to see where my golf is this year. I won it a couple of years ago, so I’m going to go out there and relax and try to hit good golf shots. I’ve had a good break. I think I needed that because I was quite tired at the end of last season. I’m excited to get going, more so than any other year.”
Her preparation in England, where she says, “the weather has been horrendous and a bit depressing,” may stand her in good stead, as conditions were cool, overcast and breezy with showers on the practice days of the tournament from Monday to Wednesday, although the temperatures are expected to range from 20-24C for the tournament.
“The wind here at the moment is very strong so I think it’s all about club selection and keeping the ball down low. I think you have to take your chances on the par fives, as they are not very long this week. That is where you are going to score the most birdies. It’s about hitting the ball straight and holing as many putts as possible,” she said.
Minjee Lee will once again be heading up the Australian contingent this week, the 21-year-old Western Australian is the highest world ranked player in the tournament (19) and won the title as an amateur back in 2014. Despite being winless in 2017 on the LPGA Tour, Lee had another fantastic season finishing 16th on the LPGA Money List with over US$1 million in earnings.
Victorian Su Oh, who flew in just this morning after competing on the LPGA Tour in the Bahamas over the weekend, has a superb record at this tournament, having finished 4th, 2nd, 6th and 3rd the last 4 years. It would be no great surprise if she was to walk away with the spoils this week.
Another to have made the long 24 haul from the Bahamas is West Australia Hannah Green, who played in her first LPGA tournament as a tour member last week finishing impressively in 11th place. Green's rookie season in 2017 was an impressive one, finishing third on the 2016/17 ALPG Order of Merit before taking three titles on the Symetra Tour and gaining her LPGA card for this season.
Of the other Australians in the field, Rebecca Artis and Sarah Kemp could well contend if they bring their "A" games to 13th Beach.
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