SINGAPORE, February 26, 2008 – The inaugural HSBC Women's Champions celebrated its official launch today at Merlion Park with a special press conference and photo call.
Major winners Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Suzann Pettersen were on hand to represent the star-studded field of 78 of the world's best female golfers in the presence of guest-of-honour Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Teo Ser Luck from Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. The players ended the press conference by hitting balls into the Marina before heading out to Singapore's award winning Garden Course at the Tanah Merah Country Club where the HSBC Women's Champions will take place from February 28 to March 2, 2008.
With 18 of the World' Top 20 ranked players in the line up, it is not only the strongest field ever assembled in Asia but is also an event of major significance around the golfing world. One of most intriguing stories developing ahead of the tournament is the possibility of a final day battle between World Number 2, Sweden's Annika Sorenstam and the current world number one Lorena Ochoa of Mexico. .
Ochoa has won 14 times in the past two years, a period in which Sorenstam for a long time struggled with a neck injury that would eventually be diagnosed as a ruptured disc. The Swede, fully recovered, announced her return by winning the season-opening SBS Open in Hawaii. For the first time she will face Ochoa with both players in top form.
"I'm honored to participate in the HSBC Women´s Champions and excited for all the enthusiasm and attention towards golf and Singapore created by this event. I believe it's good for women's golf, good for the LPGA and excellent for the HSBC Women's Champions." said Ochoa.
Sorenstam added, "This has got to be the best field of female golfers ever to compete in an event in Asia. It's phenomenal! I'm thrilled to be heading there fit and healthy and with a win under my belt so early in the year."
The line-up for the inaugural HSBC Women's Champions collectively boasts around 440 tournament wins and 38 Major titles, including every Major winner from the past three years and every LPGA tournament winner from 2007. Among them are US Open champion Cristie Kerr, Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Morgan Pressel and Pak and Pettersen, who claimed the McDonald's LPGA Championship in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Two of the newest young stars to international golf, the champions of the Japanese and Korean tours Momoko Ueda and Ji Yai Shin, who between them won 15 events last year, are also among the competitors.
"Last year we assembled what many observers considered the best field of male golfers ever seen in Asia at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Honestly, I think we've exceeded anything we have ever achieved in China. That is something I never thought I would say!" said Giles Morgan, HSBC's Group Head of Sponsorship.
"I know everyone is excited about Lorena and Annika, but we have Se Ri, we have Suzann, we have legends like Karrie Webb and Julie Inkster and proven young winners like Brittany Lincicome, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer. This is such a world-class field that there are literally dozens of players with the track record and even more with the ability to win what promises to be a dramatic inaugural HSBC Women's Champions," he added.
Pettersen, a five-time winner on the LPGA last season, agreed. The 26-year-old Norwegian said that having her fellow Scandinavian winning again just means there's one more challenger to beat.
"I don't think there's a player on the LPGA who isn't delighted to see Annika fit and well and able to play her best golf again. And I think we're all fascinated to see how this year pans out as it's so tight at the top of the rankings and I'm sure there will be a lot of swapping around – we are all fierce competitors!" said Pettersen. "The field this week is so strong that whoever ends up kissing the trophy is really going to deserve it," she joked. The unprecedented interest in the year's meeting of Annika and Lorena at an event that Natalie Gulbis has described as "The first (women's) Major in Asia" has helped the world's local bank towards achieving one of its secondary goals: breathing new life into women's golf in Asia.
"The HSBC Women's Champions aims to build on the success of the HSBC Champions in China by creating Asia's best female golfers tournament. It seeks to energise women's golf in ASEAN and beyond; to provide a tangible dream for young golfers in HSBC's grassroots and elite youth programmes here," explained Guy Harvey-Samuel, CEO, HSBC Singapore.
"At HSBC, we are committed to develop youth golf talent, in line with our vision of being 'Champions of Golf Worldwide'. Staging a local qualifier has given 16-year-old Amelia Yong the chance of a lifetime this week, and by inviting Southeast Asia's two leading golfers Siew-Ai Lim and Virada Nirapathpongporn, we're showing young golfers they can also compete on the world's biggest stage."
That goal was supported by Se Ri, a 24-time winner during her Hall of Fame career saying that the HSBC Women's Champions, coupled with the increasing popularity of ladies' golf in North Asia, will have a knock-on effect.
"With so many good young players in my own country who are almost ready to surpass my achievements, the interest at home has never been higher. In Japan the popularity of Momoko Ueda and Ai Miyazato is taking the game there to new heights and the achievements of Zhang Na and the surprise of Feng Shanshan earning her LPGA card means that China is paying attention to the women's game for the first time," she said.
"I know that we haven't hit a single ball yet, but this tournament is already the pinnacle of the women's game in Asia and will showcase our game to even more people. It's very exciting."
Tickets for HSBC Women's Champions 2008 are now on sale. You can purchase your tickets at any of the SISTIC outlets or log on to www.sistic.com.sg.
HSBC Card Holders
HSBC credit cardholders will enjoy 15% discount from now till 2 March 2008.
28 February 2008 (Friday)
Single Day Ticket
29 February 2008 (Thursday)
1 March 2008 (Saturday)
2 March 2008 (Sunday)
28 February – 2 March 2008
Other discount and concession:
§ Free entry for children aged 16 years and below.
§ Senior citizens aged 55 years old and above will enjoy 50% discount off single day and seasonal tickets.
* The above mentioned ticket price does not include GST, booking fee and other administrative fees charged by SISTIC.