Sharmila Nicollet, Nalini Singh and Smriti Mehra, the leading three players on the Women's Golf Association of India's Order of Merit, were joined by the Ladies European Tour's rookie sensation Caroline Hedwall, Sicilian Ladies Italian Open champion Christina Kim, Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum and Becky Brewerton at the launch of the 2011 Hero Women's Indian Open in Gurgaon, New Delhi, on Tuesday.
The Hero Women's Indian Open 2011, a tri-sanctioned event between the Ladies European Tour, the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and the Women's Golf Association to India, carries a prize purse of EUR225,000, with a first prize of EUR33,750 and is now firmly established as one of the best-attended events in Asia.
The award-winning DLF Golf and Country club will host the tournament for the fifth time in succession. The tournament was established by the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and Women's Golf Association of India in 2007 and only became tri-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour last year.
England's Laura Davies will defend the title over three rounds from December 9-11 and was relishing the opportunity. "I don't think that the course necessarily suits me but on the other hand I'm playing so well, if I can hole some putts, which has been the problem all year, then I believe I'll have a chance," she said.
Davies, a seven-time European Order of Merit winner, will be joined by fellow European Solheim Cup team members Sophie Gustafson, a four-time winner of the Henderson Money List and the hugely talented rookie Hedwall, who has already won three times this season.
Sweden's Hedwall is also making her tournament debut and commented: "It has been a wonderful year and I was not expecting it to be this good. I am hoping for a good finish at the Indian Open. It has great experience in India so far."
The flamboyant Kim, a United States Solheim Cup player, was also looking forward to competing and commented: "It's a great feeling to be in India for the first time, and I am expecting a good finish thanks to my current form."
The Indian challenge will be led by Nicollet, the current leader on the domestic Hero Women's Professional Golf Tour who was India's top representative in a tie for 23rd at the 2010 event.
"I am hoping to finish better than last year. I have worked on my swing and putting and it has shown good results," said the glamorous young professional, who has already played in a number of Ladies European Tour events, including the Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale and the Finnair Masters this year.
Meanwhile, Mehra, a pioneer of women's professional golf in India who helped to establish and popularise the game, is looking forward to playing in the tournament, which will showcase India's burgeoning talent to a global audience.
Mehra commented: "This tournament is a great exposure for Indian women's professional golfers and we are hopeful for a good result from the Indians this year."
The Indian challenge will also include the likes of Nalini Singh (Siwach), who learned her game at the host venue, Neha Tripathi, Saaniya Sharma and Meghna Bal, who are among the 108 players in the tournament field, which will be reduced to the leading 60 professionals and those tied after two rounds.
In an exciting new move for Indian women's golf, the tournament title sponsor Hero MotoCorp will send the top four finishing Indian players to the LET's Qualifying School at La Manga Club in Spain in January.
Hero, which is the world's largest producer of two wheeled vehicles, is committed to building a strong nation through sport, as can be seen by its support to cricket, golf, hockey, football and last year the Commonwealth Games.
Hero backed men's golf through the years and has been sponsoring the Hero Indian Open for the last seven years, and last year added Women's Golf Association of India to its sporting family.
In addition to the Hero Women's Indian Open, DLF Golf and Country Club has played host to several world-class events in recent years including the men's Hero Indian Open, the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic, the DLF Masters and the Avantha Masters, won by India's S.S.P. Chowrasia in February.
The club is situated in the heart of DLF City in Gurgaon, Haryana, just 15 minutes away from the International Airport. The rugged Aravali Range forms a dramatic backdrop to the Arnold Palmer designed course, which opened in 1999. The stunning parkland course sits amid sparkling lakes, meandering streams and a variety of flora and fauna, with 65 bird species including an abundance of peacocks. It is a par 72, 18-hole course, which boasts world-class fairways, fast, true greens and a majestic clubhouse.
photos Janos Schmidt