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STARS READY TO MAKE HISTORY AT MISSION HILLS
After taking a trip back to 1940s China, four of the world’s top players are ready to play some vintage golf at the World Ladies Championship this week.
Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu and Feng Shanshan donned traditional “qipao” dresses for a visit to Movie Town, a new tourist attraction at the tournament venue, Mission Hills Haikou on the paradise island of Hainan in China.
The giant theme park recreates sets from the film “Back to 1942” by Feng Xiaogang, the only Chinese director to have his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
The four players posed for photos with Chinese umbrellas and paper fans after an outdoor press conference in the “town square” on Wednesday (5 March).
The serious golf business will start on Thursday when the US$600,000 World Ladies Championship tees off on Mission Hills Haikou’s signature Blackstone Course.
World No.2 Pettersen, the defending champion from Norway, is relishing the chance to defend her title.
“It’s fantastic to be back,” she said. “I had a great time last year and everyone has worked so hard again to put on this tournament. It’s a world class event and I’m looking forward to it.”
Park, the world No.1 who won three Majors last year, finished runner-up to Pettersen by a stroke last year.
“It’s always a pleasure coming to Mission Hills,” said the Korean star. “Last year I played well but one player happened to play better than I did!
“However, this tournament is not just about the result, it’s also about having some fun and getting to know the other players. It’s going to be a great week.”
World No.5 Ryu is making her first visit to Mission Hills Haikou and has been taken aback by the scale of the resort, which has 10 golf courses and is in the process of building three new hotels and an entertainment district.
“The resort is huge, I had no idea it was such a big place,” she said. “I’m very happy to be here. The hotel and hospitality are fantastic and the golf course is perfect.”
World No.7 Feng won the inaugural World Ladies Championship two years ago and finished third last year.
“I have very good memories of this tournament,” she confirmed. “The field is getting stronger each year, which makes it more difficult to win but that’s great for the event.”
The World Ladies Championship is unique in professional golf in that it consists of three events in one – an individual professional competition, a concurrent professional team championship in which countries are represented by teams of two, and an individual amateur tournament.
Organised in conjunction with the China Golf Association and co-sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour, it will be the fourth event on this year’s LET schedule.
Korea will start as favourites to retain the team title, with Park and Ryu forming a formidable combination.
The strong field also features the world’s No.1 amateur, Minjee Lee of Australia, fresh from her maiden professional victory in the Victorian Open, together with her compatriot Su-Hyun Oh, the world’s fifth-ranked amateur.
The tournament is co-sponsored by global services company American Express; Innovative Spirit from Paris, CAPSA New Generation Premium car brand – DS; premium Italian lifestyle brand FILA; and high-end, world-renowned bathroom brand TOTO.