Greenhill: Women’s golf to the fore

Sandra Gal and Brett Rumford
Brett Rumford shares some short game knowledge with Sandra Gal at the Oates Vic Open.

 

With the hurly burly of the opening three days now behind us and the finishing line ahead, Saturday at the Oates Vic Open provided a few moments of respite to reflect on both the event to date as well as the longer journey which Golf Victoria has been on since the men’s and women’s Championships were joined together in 2012.

The afternoon sun streaming across the rolling landscape of 13th Beach tends to stimulate a variety of thoughts and the predominant one is how good it is to see men and women playing elite level golf together. That was pretty much the common view of the decent size galleries that have roamed the Beach and Creek courses since Thursday.

Men and women playing golf together is nothing new if truth be known. It’s been happening at golf clubs for over 100 years and so it should be. Golf is unique in many ways, and people of different ages, abilities and gender can certainly play the game together without any issue at all.

However in elite professional golf, unlike tennis majors and the Olympics, it’s basically unheard of for men and women to play at the same venue at the same time. Since 2012, the Oates Vic Open has gone from strength to strength following the lead of these other international sports in having men and women playing simultaneously. The end product is far greater than just the sum of two parts.

The Oates Vic Open has an energy and atmosphere that has to be experienced. No words can ever adequately describe what it is to be around the event from Monday morning practice until the trophies are awarded on Sunday afternoon.

Aside from the exceptional golf talent in both fields complete with the now normal (technology assisted) startling long tee shots, crisply struck irons and deft touch around greens, the joint Opens offer colour and fashion, social interaction, vibrancy and a strong sense of optimism. As a rarity in modern sport, equal prizemoney has been provided to both men and women from the start and has grown significantly from a joint pool of $250k in 2012 to $1million in 2017.  

Across the five years, the women’s side of the event has arguably been the major factor in the Oates Vic Open’s resurgence. With prizemoney of half a million for the women’s title in 2017 and co-sanctioning with the Ladies European Tour (LET), the Women’s Oates Vic Open is of world-class significance.

Female professionals from around the world and Australia’s best amateurs have embraced the concept, love playing alongside the men and interact with genuine friendliness to everyone they come into contact with. Their presence has helped to lift the event into the hard to describe basket.

At 13th Beach this week, there are 13 women who competed in the Rio Olympics last year as well as 24 of the world’s top 200 players. That includes many who ply their trade on either the LPGA or LET Tours. For good measure, 32 of the top 50 players from the LET Tour are teeing it up as well.

While Queensland’s Jake McLeod’s stellar eleven-under 61 was the major story of Friday’s second round, not to be missed was the eight-under 65 shot by Victoria’s own Su Oh and a pair of 66’s from Spanish sensation Belen Mozo and Amelia Lewis from the United States. 

The women’s 36-hole cut mark has been consistently becoming lower with this year’s mark of one-over par the best yet. During the second round, 64 of the 144 women’s starting field also returned sub-par scores highlighting the greater depth of players being attracted to the event as well as the  undoubted talent on show.

The 2017 edition of one of the world’s (if not the) only jointly conducted men’s and women’s championship is building towards an exciting conclusion. The women’s title will rightfully attract its share of interest with 12 players within six strokes of the lead held by the impressive Melissa Reid from England.

Close behind though are players such as Mozo, Angel Yin from the United States and Germany’s Sandra Gal not to mention the super talented Oh. For those not familiar with women’s golf, be sure to get to the rolling links land of 13th Beach tomorrow to have a look. It’s seriously good.

    




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