Last year’s champions, David Law and Celine Boutier – Golf Australia – click to expand.
This week will see the Australasian, European, LPGA, LET and ALPG Tours joining forces at 13th Beach on the Bellarine Peninsula for the ISPS Handa Vic Open, for the second occasion, the event offering a unique and trailblazing format to tournament golf.
While initially an experiment of sorts between the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf when first played in 2013, the format has since expanded to include the LPGA and European Tours and now offers a concept being admired and considered in other areas of the world as a possible solution to improving economies of scale, attracting greater audiences and enticing the corporate dollar.
The Vic Open now brings together not only the Australasian and European Tours on the men’s side of the tournament but the LPGA, the LET and the ALPG also combine to provide just the second event of 2020 for the LPGA and the chance for several ALPG and LET members to play an LPGA Tour event and, potentially, earn an LPGA Tour card.
Prizemoney of A$1.5 million per event is up for grabs with the two courses (The Creek and Beach courses) at 13th Beach utilised on the opening two days before the event focuses on the Beach Course for the weekend.
After a rather lacklustre effort by many of the leading LPGA players in 2019 to support the event when first involving their members, quoting too many events in a row as part of their concern, there is a greater participation of leading players in 2020 although, on the men’s side, the representation from European based players remains disappointing.
China’s Haotong Li, who won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2018 and the latest Dubai Desert Classic Champion, Lucas Herbert, are the leading world ranked players in the men’s field while, in the women’s side of things, two players from the top ten of the Rolex World Ranking, JeongeunLee6 (7) and Australia’s Minjee Lee (8) will head the field in terms of ranking strength.
The women have the benefit of a follow-up event at next week’s Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide and notable players such as major champions, Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Stacey Lewis and Jiyai Shin are also taking their place. So they should, with the event providing a possible solution to a long held aggrievance by many members of the LPGA regarding the disparity in prize-money between men’s and women’s golf.
When the opportunity arose last year, however, there was a notable lack of effort by many to display their support in the best way possible, although to be fair to them it had been a late decision to include the LPGA.
Australian great, Karrie Webb, will be joined by her fellow Australian LPGA Tour players, Hannah Green, Katherine Kirk, Su Oh and Sarah Kemp.
The men’s Vic Open has struggled in attempting to join forces with the European Tour but as has been the case with the Australian PGA Championship, the difficulty in attracting leading players to a one-off event on the other side of the world without the lure of significant appearance money is proving problematic.
What the association with Europe does offer, however, is the prospect of worldwide coverage of the event through the distribution channels of the European Tour, ensuring the Victorian Government, who have played such a key role in the funding and growth of the event, are kept happy.