The 2019 ALPG Tour kicked off in January at the Ballarat Golf Club at the first ever ALPG Tour Qualifying Tournament. We had anticipated around 30-40 players competing for a chance to get a start in all of our 2019 events, however we were overwhelmed by the interest in the event and ended up with a field of 82 players.
The winner was Taiwanese player Tsa Peiying, who plays regularly on the LPGA of Japan Tour. Peiying led from day one and was never threatened, winning by 5 shots from South Australian Tamie Durdin. Some of you may remember that Tamie was one of our leading players in the late ‘90s and 00s, competing on the LPGA of Japan and the US LPGA Tours. “Durds” as she is known to her tour mates decided to make a comeback of sorts this year and she showed that she still has a very serious golf game despite the lack of practice and competitive play.
The tour then stayed in Ballarat for the opening event of the 2019 ALPG Club Car Series, The Ballarat Icons ALPG pro-am. The field was of the highest quality with 81 professionals from 24 countries competing for the $30,000 prizemoney on offer.
The event this year took the form of a two-day pro-am, the first day the professionals played alongside their amateur partners while the second and final round was pros only. This created a tournament-like atmosphere, with 2015 Vic Open champ Marianne Skarpnord emerging victorious with rounds of 69 and 68 to defeat NSW’s Celina Yuan and LPGA Tour player Kim Kaufman by one shot.
I must say a huge thanks to everyone at Ballarat Golf Club for hosting our qualifying tournament, our ALPG rookie camp and the Ballarat Icons Pro-am. Everyone at the club was so supportive of the ALPG, our members and international guests, and on behalf of everyone who played both events and our ALPG staff, we say a big thanks to all involved.
The ALPG “circus” then headed to the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula for the 2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open, the most anticipated event on our 2019 schedule. The tournament is the only one of its kind in the world where male and female professionals play on the same golf course at the same time and venue for equal prizemoney.
The extraordinary growth of the tournament has been well documented, in 2012 the total prizemoney for the tournament was $250,000 and this year it was $3m. With the European Tour and the US LPGA Tour coming on-board as sanctioning partners this year, the event was a resounding success in terms of spectator numbers, viewing figures and the worldwide exposure and headlines it generated.
I would be remiss not to mention a few people who have been a critical part of the event’s growth in recent years. The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been onboard since day one and he and the Victorian Government should be congratulated for their vision for this event and their continued support. David Greenhill, (Golf Victoria / Golf Australia) had been the Tournament Director of the event since its re-emergence in 2012 and it was he who had the idea to bring the women’s and men’s events together. It is my feeling that David does not get the credit he deserves for the tournament’s success and I would like to thank both him and former Golf Victoria CEO Simon Brookhouse for their part in making the event the success it is today.
The winners of the Vic Open this year were Frenchwoman Celine Boutier, a former Women’s British amateur champion and winner of the 2018 Australian Ladies Classic at Bonville, and Scotsman David Law, who eagled the final hole to take the title.
From 13th Beach the Tour headed to Adelaide for the flagship event of the ALPG Tour, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at the Grange Golf Club’s West course.
Once again, the tournament attracted huge galleries and it was American Nelly Korda who emerged victorious, winning by two shots from defending champion Jin Young Ko. In winning the tournament she became the fourth member of her family to win an Australian Open title! Her father Petr won the Australian Open singles tennis crown in 1998, her older sister Jess won the title at Royal Melbourne in 2012 and her younger brother Sebastian won the junior boys Australian Open tennis crown in Melbourne last year. What a family of amazing athletes!
A huge thanks must go to Golf Australia for putting on another great show this year, the South Australian Government for their continued support, and also congratulations and thanks to ISPS Handa for their tenth consecutive year of title sponsorship.
From Adelaide the tour headed up the Coffs Harbour on the mid-north NSW Coast for the second edition of the Pacific Bay Resorts Australian Ladies Classic at the magnificent Bonville Golf Resort.
With Cyclone Oma lingering off the Northern NSW coastline, we had several heavy showers during the week and some very strong winds gusting up to 70kph. But we managed to get all 72 holes finished without any delays and congratulated our new champion, former Vic Open winner Marianne Skarpnord.
This event would not have happened without the hard work and support of several key people. A huge thanks must go out to; Stuart Fraser, CEO of Golf NSW; Bernard Bratusa, Government Relations Officer for Golf NSW; Andrew Fraser, local member for Coffs Harbour; John Barilaro, Deputy Premier of NSW; Peter Montgomery, owner of Bonville Golf Resort and Brad Damon, General Manager of Bonville Golf Resort.