Queensland will unveil a galaxy of the best golfers in the world at RACV Royal Pines Resort this week when the LET’s season opening Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters gets under way, from 2-5 February.
Major champions Stacy Lewis and So Yeon Ryu, the Kraft Nabisco and US Women’s Open title holders respectively, headline the field of 144 players.
Joining them is the new LET and LPGA Tour member Lexi Thompson, who became the youngest player in history to win an LPGA event at 16 years of age at the Navistar Classic last September. She followed up by becoming the youngest professional to win on the Ladies European Tour at the season ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Thompson will be looking to collect her third professional title a week before her 17th birthday on 10th February. Having played in the Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne for the last two years, said she was looking forward to the challenge.
"I truly enjoyed my previous trips to Australia and I am really looking forward to the wonderful fans and amazing hospitality down under," Thompson said. “This is my third trip to Australia to play and I always enjoy coming here. Anyone who visits here knows how great it is, so why wouldn't you be excited to start the year here?”
However, she may be upstaged by New Zealander Lydia Ko, the 14-year-old who became the youngest winner of a professional tournament when she won the 2012 Bing Lee/Samsung Women’s NSW Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour on Sunday.
The world No.1 ranked amateur secured a four stroke victory over seasoned competitor Becky Morgan at Oatlands Golf Club in Sydney and is one of two amateurs in the field for the Gold Coast RACV Ladies Australian Masters along with Australia’s Su Hyun Oh.
There is an impressive list of Korean players in the field, led by Ryu, who is joined by Hee Kyung Seo, the 2011 Kia Classic champion and runner-up at last year’s US Women’s Open with 11 international victories and Hee Young Park who won the LPGA’s season ending CME Group Titleholders in November.
The European charge will be led by three-time Australian Masters champion Laura Davies, who won the title back to back in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2003, as well as Sophie Gustafson, Melissa Reid, Christel Boeljon and Ladies European Tour Player of the Year Caroline Hedwall.
The exuberant, crowd-pleasing Christina Kim is one of 25 Americans in the field. In total, seven of The 2011 Solheim Cup representatives will be in action in Queensland.
They will be joined by the 2010 LET Money List winner Lee-Anne Pace, Becky Brewerton, Gwladys Nocera, Felicity Johnson, Maria Hernandez, Diana Luna, Ashleigh Simon, Linda Wessberg, Minea Blomqvist and Caroline Masson.
Australians Karen Lunn, Nikki Campbell, Nikki Garrett, Sarah Kemp, Kristie Smith, Lindsey Wright and Frances Bondad join the 2009 event champion Katherine Hull as the home challengers.
LET rookies in the field include Carlota Ciganda, Stephanie Kirchmayr, Kendall Dye, Esther Choe, Cindy LaCrosse, Jennie Lee, Amelia Lewis and Heather Bowie-Young, all of whom could prove worthy of the title.
The Masters has acted as a launch pad for the careers of several of the world’s best golfers, including three-time event winner Annika Sorenstam and current world number one Yani Tseng, who played the Ladies Masters on Queensland's Gold Coast from the age of 16 before taking the title in 2011. Amy Yang, who won the title as a 16-year-old amateur in 2006, is now ranked 12th in the world.
Unfortunately, due to adverse weather conditions, the RACV Royal Pines Golf Course was closed to all play on Monday 30th January and will continue to be closed for play on Tuesday 31st January, however, players will be permitted to walk the course and practise putt on greens. No chipping will be permitted on course and all practice facilities will be open from 7.00am.
It is currently the committee’s intention to play the Pro Am as planned on Wednesday and commence the tournament as scheduled on Thursday.
ABC TV is the Host Broadcaster, is providing live coverage of the last two days of the championship.
The Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters is co- sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour, who have enjoyed a strong relationship for a number of years.
From Queensland, the Tours will head to Victoria for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, being held on the composite course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club for the first time from February 9-12, where world number one Yani Tseng is defending. They will then complete their Australasian trip by crossing the Tasman Sea to play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch being held at Pegasus Golf Club in North Canterbury from February17-19, where Australian Kristie Smith will attempt to retain the title she won a year ago.