The field has been released for The 2018 Qantas Golf Club Gold Coast Challenge, with play scheduled to get underway at 7:00 am on Monday 12th March at Links Hope Island.
The event is a dual women’s and men’s pro-am, which will see up to 60 players from the ALPG Tour and the PGA Pro-am Series of Australia competing together over 36 holes for total prizemoney of $60,000.
The unique format will see each group of four players comprising one male professional, one female professional and two amateur golfers, with each of the women’s and men’s fields competing for a share of $30,000 prizemoney on offer.
This is the first event of its kind to be played in Australia and promises to be a memorable experience and spectacle for the keen golfer.
On the women’s side the highest ranked player in the field is Scotland’s Michelle Thomson, who was the runner-up in the 2017 Hero Indian Women’s Open and 9th in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters in December 2017. Thomson will celebrate her 30th birthday on Sunday and will no doubt be one of the players to beat.
Multiple Ladies European Tour winner Felicity Johnson has expressed her liking for the links Hope Island layout, the Englishwoman who has spent the past 5 years playing on the US LPGA Tour took out the Seasons Aged Care Brisbane Invitational after a 4-way playoff on Friday. and is another you would expect to contend
ALPG and LPGA star Sarah Kemp has been in great form over the past 6 months and currently sits in 6th place of the 2017/18 ALPG Order of Merit. The New South Welshwoman finished 11th at the Oates Vic Open, 12th at the ActewAGL Canberra Classic and 5th at the recent NSW Women’s Open and will be hoping this is her opportunity to get a win on the board early in 2018.
Western Australia’s Whitney Hillier was the leading Australian on the Ladies European Tour in 2017, the 27-year-old is slowly recovering from a troublesome back injury which has plagued her in recent months, and providing she is fit and healthy should be another contender.
South Australia’s Stephanie Na has had a solid start to her 2018 season currently sitting 8th on the 2017/18 ALPG Order of Merit. The 28-year-old finished a creditable 19th place in the US LPGA sanctioned ISPS Handa Womens Australian Open at Kooyonga GC three weeks ago, which included a hole-in-1 in her final round playing alongside former world number 1 Laura Davies. Na has the talent to win anytime she tees up and should find the Links Hope Island layout to her liking.
In addition, there are several local Gold Coast ALPG members competing in the pro-am including Amy Walsh, Georgia Clarke and Ali Orchard, whose partner Deyen Lawson is also competing in the men’s event.
The highest ranked player and a name which needs no introduction in the world of professional golf, Peter Senior, headlines the PGA Pro-Am Series field. Senior is a four time PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner, and has had a hugely successful career playing on the PGA Tour of Australasia notching up 23 wins including three Australian PGA Championship and three Australian Masters victories.
The 58 year old is a four time winner on The European Tour and a three time winner on the Japanese Tour and has a total of 34 worldwide career victories.
The affable Queenslander also has two top 10 finishes in major championships, both coming at the Open Championship, and had his first Seniors Tour win at the 2010 Australian Senior Open before joining the US Champions Tour in 2011.
Senior’s most recent victories were at the 2012 Emirates Australian Open which he won for the second time and most recently the 2015 Australian Masters at Huntingdale Golf Club which he won for the third time in his long and distinguished career.
New South Welshman Dimi Papadatos was born and raised in a household rich in Greek tradition, he turned Professional in 2012 at the encouragement of his mentor, US PGA Tour winner Andre Stolz. Dimi finished 9th at Qualifying School to earn his card for the 2013 PGA Tour of Australasia season and in 2014 recorded his breakthrough victory winning the $850,000 New Zealand Open.
A tough stint on the European Tour the following year took its toll on the New South Welshmen who admittedly struggled against the tougher competition.
However a shift in focus and some hard grafting with coach Richard Woodhouse, has seen him return to his winning ways taking out the Oates Victorian Open and the West Australian PGA Championship in 2017.
His stellar season saw him named the 2017 ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the year.
A solid start to 2018 has seen Dimi finish 6th in the strokeplay at the World Super 6 Perth, whilst making the cuts in all five starts thus far this season
James Nitties joined the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2004 and had his first taste of success on the Hooters Tour in the USA. In 2009 Nitties earned full status on the PGA TOUR having finished second at Qualifying School, and after a season which was highlighted by two top-10 finishes he retained his status for the 2010 season.
Playing 30 events, Nitties recorded his best finish on the PGA TOUR, a third at the Puerto Rico Open however he made it to the weekend in only half his starts and failed to retain his card.
With full status on the Web.com Tour in 2011 Nitties tasted victory at the Midwest Classic, which helped him to get to 26th on the Nationwide money list, one spot short of a promotion back
2012 was a mixed year on the Web.com Tour for Nitties with just one top-10 finish but he retained conditional status for 2013 which he also retained for 2014.
In 2015 Nitties experienced a return to form and managed to win the South-Pacific Open Championship by 6 shots, and although having competed for much of his career in the USA has always been a staunch supporter of his home Tour and regularly competes in the Australian summer of golf.
2018 so far has been great for Nitties, getting off to a flier with a runner-up finish in the World Super 6 Perth taking home almost $180,000 in prizemoney.
Another to watch this week is Matthew Millar, who turned professional in 1999. From 2006 - 2009 Millar played mainly on the European Tour, in 2011 he qualified for his first major championship at the Open Championship and finished a creditable tie for 63rd.
Millar’s first Professional win came in 2015 in the NZ PGA Championship in what was a very consistent year including second places in both the South Pacific Open and Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championships, and sixth place finishes in the UNIQLO Masters and Australian PGA Championship.
The popular New South Welshman took out the prestigious PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the Year Award in 2015, and continued his strong form into 2016, finishing second in a thrilling Oates Vic Open playoff behind Michael Long.
Millar finished a gallant second place in the 2017 Coca-Cola QLD PGA Championship after losing a playoff to Daniel Pearce, and kicked off his 2018 season with another victory across the ditch, this time at the inaugural NZ Masters, and once again finished runner-up at the QLD PGA Championship.
Gavin Kirkman CEO of the PGA of Australia which owns the PGA Pro-Am Series is another looking forward to this unique event.
“Golf is a wonderfully unique and inclusive sport. Golfers of all skill, age, gender or ability are able to compete alongside each other and derive equal enjoyment from the game. The Qantas Golf Club Gold Coast Challenge will be a great demonstration of this.
“Australia has so many talented male and female professionals; the Qantas Golf Club Gold Coast Challenge is a rare opportunity for them to come together, in a team environment, so I am sure they will all have a lot of fun.”
Karen Lunn, CEO of the ALPG echoed Kirkman’s sentiments adding, “This event is the result of the collaboration between ALPG and the PGA of Australia and we are delighted that in just two days we will be finally witnessing this unique pro-am format come to fruition”
“For amateur golfers to have the opportunity to compete alongside both male and female professional golfers who are themselves competing in official ranking events is something very special.”
Lunn also extended her thanks to the tournament’s stakeholders,
“I would like to sincerely thank the Gold Coast City Council for their continued support, Qantas Golf Club for their vision in taking on-board the title sponsorship of the event, and also to the team at Hope Island Links for their unwavering support, we could not wish for a finer venue on the Gold Coast to play.”
A strong supporter of Australian golf, this event will become the sixth pro-am tournament supported by the Qantas Golf Club and the first showcasing this new inclusive format.
Robbie Bennetts, one of the Principals, Qantas Golf Club said “We are really excited to be partnering with the PGA and ALPG in what will be an exciting concept for the game of golf,”
“We see a lot of couples playing Qantas Golf Club events and this creates an entirely new opportunity where they can play with both a male and female professionals in the same group”
The Gold Coast is synonymous with Australian golf having been the proud host of the Ladies Masters for 28 years, and also of the Australian PGA Championship, an ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia
Tracey-Lea Tiley, Links Hope Island General Manager is another stakeholder looking forward to this pro-am,
“Links Hope Island is delighted to partner with Qantas Golf Club, the PGA of Australia and the ALPG to produce this exciting new pro-am format and look forward to establishing Links as the home of the Qantas Golf Club Gold Coast Challenge,” said
About Qantas Golf Club
Qantas Golf Club was launched in December 2014, and is now owned by GolfNow, to provide a community for all Qantas Frequent Flyer members with a passion and love for the game of golf. Qantas Golf Club provides a range of benefits to members in including the option to book tee times across Australian courses, compete in events and book a range of holidays at many favourite golf destinations, all while earning Qantas Points.
The Hope Island tournament is part of a wider program incorporating the Challenge Series of one day events, as well as longer format events in destinations such as Melbourne, Gold Coast, Tasmania, Port Douglas, China, Japan and Reno USA.
About the ALPG
Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) is the official sanctioning body for female professional tournament golf in Australia and New Zealand. Comprising teaching and playing professionals from Australia and New Zealand, ALPG's mission is to work with stakeholders to promote women's professional golf and develop competition and business opportunities for Members through tournaments and professional development initiatives.
About the Pro-Am Series
PGA Pro-Am Series comprises of 200 events Australia wide. Played across more than 170 golf courses around Australia the PGA Pro-Am Series plays an important part in the development of Australia’s Professional Golfers whilst also growing the game at a grass roots level by engaging an estimated 48,000 amateur golfers each year.