World No.1 Lydia Ko will defend her ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open championship in Adelaide.
The New Zealander, still just 18, became the youngest winner in the tournament’s storied history when she saluted at Royal Melbourne in February.
She will be joined on The Grange Golf Club’s West Course by Australia’s top-ranked players, LPGA Tour winner Minjee Lee and five-time national champion Karrie Webb – the first confirmed starters in what will be a star-studded field back in South Australia for the first time in 21 years.
Ko, who went on to win the LPGA’s season-long Race to the CME Globe as the Tour’s top player for 2015, is excited to return to Australia, the scene of several defining moments in her career.
“The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open really helped to jump-start a great year for me in 2015 and I am thrilled to be the defending champion,” Ko said.
“It’s always fun for us to play in front of our fans in Australia and we are already hearing good things about The Grange Golf Club.”
Webb, the record-holding five-time champion, is keen to kickstart her 2016 campaign with another title as she builds towards what she hopes will be an historic Olympic tilt.
“The Patricia Bridges Bowl has always been special to me – it’s a great trophy with some great names on it,” Webb said.
“It’s fantastic for the tournament to get back to South Australia and I can’t think of a better way to start a big year than by getting into contention on Sunday afternoon in Adelaide.”
Lee, 19, was low amateur at the Open at Victoria in 2014 (T11 overall), leading Australian as a pro in 2015 (T7) and is looking to continue that progression in Adelaide.
“It would be fantastic to take that next step – it would mean a lot to go well in my national championship,” Lee said.
“I can’t wait to get to Adelaide and take on the world’s best players in our own backyard again.”
South Australian Minister for Tourism Leon Bignell said securing these high-profile players was a huge boost for the tournament.
“To have professionals of this calibre commit so early is an excellent indicator of the high standard international event we can all look forward to in February,” Mr Bignell said.
“No doubt fans from around the globe will turn their attention to Adelaide to watch the performance of the world’s best golfers.
“We want to welcome people from around Australia and the world to the beautiful Grange golf course in our stunning capital, Adelaide.
“The state’s visitor economy is expected to feel the effects with a healthy boost of $3.7 million expected during the Open.”
Golf Australia’s tournament director Trevor Herden was thrilled with the early interest from the world’s best players.
“We are extremely happy to announce these three great names to get the ball rolling, but we’re very confident it is just a taste of things to come in terms of building the field,” Herden said.
“In days and weeks to come, we can expect a raft of the world’s best players to join us in Adelaide.”
The 2016 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open will be held from February 18-21 on The Grange Golf Club’s West Course.
The 2016 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, is the flagship tournament on the ALPG Tour and is jointly sanctioned by the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour.
The prizemoney is $US1.3million (approx. $AUD1.8million), making it the largest prize purse in Australian golf this summer.