The innovative World Ladies Championship is poised to cement its position as one of the game’s premier tournaments in 2016.
As well as announcing a 33 per cent increase in the prize purse to US$800,000, organisers have confirmed other notable developments that will elevate the status of the event that was launched by China LPGA Tour in partnership with Ladies European Tour and Mission Hills Group in 2012.
For 2016, the championship will be sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour [LET], the China LPGA Tour and now the Korean LPGA as well.
The championship will retain its unique three-in-one format, created by Mission Hills, China LPGA Tour, and LET with an eye on golf’s return to the Olympic Games this year in Rio de Janeiro.
After four years at Mission Hills Haikou, the fifth edition of the championship will switch to the Mission Hills Dongguan site in close proximity to Hong Kong and will be held from March 10-13, 2016.
TK Pen, Vice President (Honorary) of the China Golf Association and Chairman of the China LPGA Tour, said: “On this the 5th anniversary of the World Ladies Championship, the event has moved to the Mission Hills Dongguan Olazabal course. In addition to a top international field, the tournament provides the opportunity for players to earn valuable world ranking points before this year’s Rio Olympics as one of high-level international ladies events before the Games.”
In other exciting developments, the field will be upsized to 126 players from 108 entries while the Korean LPGA has given the championship its stamp of approval and will select its top-40 players to compete alongside 40 players from the Ladies European Tour and 40 players from the China LPGA Tour.
Participants will be seeking to add their name to the illustrious list of past winners – Feng Shanshan of China, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and Koreans Park In-bee and Ryu So-yeon.
Following a 36-hole cut, the top-60 and ties will qualify for the final two rounds on the acclaimed Olazabal Course, a three-time venue for the World Cup of Golf and designed by Jose Maria Olazabal, the two-time Masters Champion is considered one of the best sand players in the history of golf.
As well as a 72-hole individual stroke play competition there is a professional team championship run concurrently in which 18 countries will be represented by teams of two. China, as hosts, will have two teams. The combined daily scores of both players in each team are counted.
The gathering will also continue to include an individual amateur tournament, played over 72 holes of stroke play. Joining China’s top two female amateurs will be eight of the leading international amateurs.
Ivan Khodabakhsh, Chief Executive Officer of the Ladies European Tour, said: “The Ladies European Tour has driven this initiative and we are proud to have delivered these innovations working closely with the China LPGA Tour and Mission Hills. Over the last four years, the World Ladies Championship has quickly become one of the standout tournaments staged across the globe and provides an excellent platform to showcase the strength of the women’s game. Our members always look forward to competing in this tournament and with golf returning to the Olympic Games in August, it will be intriguing to watch the world’s best players at Mission Hills.”
TK Pen, Vice President (Honorary) of the China Golf Association and Chairman of the China LPGA Tour, said: “This is the first time that 40 players from three sanctioning bodies – Korea, Europe and China – have come together in the same field.”
Tenniel Chu, Vice Chairman of Mission Hills Group, said: “We are excited at the prospect of bringing the World Ladies Championship to Mission Hills Dongguan this year. For more than 20 years, Mission Hills has been at the forefront of promoting and developing golf in China and the World Ladies Championship is one of the jewels in the crown of our tournament portfolio.
“We see it as a window to showcase China to the world and, with the Olympics in mind, a chance to provide our mainland Chinese players with the opportunity to compete with the game’s finest players.”
Kang Choon-ja, Senior Vice President of Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association, said: “It is our honour to join forces with the World Ladies Championship and to partner with Mission Hills, the LET and the China LPGA Tour. We are especially happy to create this opportunity for our leading Korean players to play top-level golf at such a well-known venue.”
The long-term vision of the organisers is to have the World Ladies Championship recognised as the sixth Major event on the women’s international calendar and the first in Asia.
photos Janos Schmidt