By Michael Davis
A COMPACT two-day event at the superbly-revamped Sandringham public course is returning to the WPGA Tour of Australasia next month.
Known as The Athena – so called after the Greek goddess of war strategy and wisdom – the two-day event will feature 10 emerging Australian and New Zealand golfers like Stephanie Kyriacou, Karis Davidson, Stephanie Bunque and last year’s winner, Kristalle Blum.
The final two spots will be taken by the winners of a nation-wide competition.
The Athena focuses on the emerging and future stars of women’s golf, with the players identified by the WPGA Tour as the best of our many talented young stars.
The Athena is a different concept in that it is designed to test the player’s skills in challenging situations, or ‘clutch shots’, which they can expect when competing against the best in the world.
Organisers believe the format is entertaining for all sports fans, not just golf fanatics.
It is believed the 2022 Athena will be the first event ever live broadcast from a public golf course In Australia.
The event will be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo from 12:30pm to 4:30pm each day (AEDT).
The tournament concept was developed by Evolve Sports Group and will once again be staged and operated by the WPGA Tour of Australasia.
And in a new twist in 2022, female golfers of all ages across the country have been given the opportunity to play their way into the field through a new partnership with tech company, Golf Challenge.
The Athena Professional Series has been conducted through the Golf Challenge app in November and December, with the two best-performed participants to be invited to next month’s tournament.
“Our vision for The Athena is to create a sustainable event held annually to showcase Australia’s future female stars, while also engaging with a new demographic of golf fans in ways never seen before in golf broadcasts,” said WPGA Tour CEO Karen Lunn.
“In 2022 The Athena will include more innovation and entertainment to the broadcast and competition golf while respecting the game we love.
“In addition to returning partner adidas Golf and the Foxtel Group, we are delighted to be able to announce that we already have a major new partner on board for the concept in 2022, Golf Challenge, who will be the Official Qualification Partner of The Athena.
“Excitingly, two female golfers will be selected for The Athena 2022 via a digital qualifying series conducted on the Golf Challenge App called the Athena Professional Series. Others who are simply interested in trying some of challenges seen at The Athena can also try them separately on the App.
“The innovative focus on challenge shots in The Athena and Golf Challenge App makes this partnership a perfect fit for both parties.
“The inaugural event held earlier this year proved to be extremely popular and validated our view that there is definitely an appetite from sponsors, broadcasters and viewers for new and innovative forms of competition golf here in Australia,” Lunn said.
Golf Challenge Founder, Clive Mayhew, said the incorporation of the app into the Athena Professional Series had been his vision from day one.
“Golf Challenge is proud and excited to be part of the Athena 2022, celebrating innovation within golf and ability to challenge your friends,” Mayhew said.
“Our collaboration with The Athena to produce The Athena Professional Series is a world-first, and allows female golfers to qualify from anywhere in the world to compete in a major golf tournament.
“We can’t wait to see who wins and to see them compete,” he added.
The Athena venue in 2022, Sandy Golf Links, sits in the heart of the famous Melbourne Sandbelt and has recently been transformed into one of the finest public golf courses in the country.
Situated adjacent to the famed Royal Melbourne Golf Club and now boasting the same Suttons Mix greens that Royal Melbourne is renowned for, Sandy Golf Links, as a tournament venue, makes professional golf accessible to all golfers.
“The opportunity to showcase the incredible work done to enhance the golf course at ‘Sandy’ and collaborate with the PGA and WPGA on such an innovative event promoting women’s golf and providing opportunities for up-and-coming talent is one we are very proud of,” said Royal Melbourne Golf Club general manager Damon Lonnie.
The club operates the public facility.