READY TO RUMBLE
一决高下126 international golfers put their best foot forward in Mission Hills Resort Dongguan to prepare for when the game returns to the Olympics this summer.
When the Summer Olympics 2016 opens in Rio de Janeiro this August, history will be made, namely, it’s the year golf returns to the game since it was discontinued in 1904; and though only individual medals will be awarded this year, the World Ladies Championship will feature an innovative format that includes team competitions based on the combined scores of two players from the same country. So it’s no surprise Olympic hopefuls were enthusiastic to get warmed up at Mission Hills’s fifth World Ladies Championship in Dongguan early March, which saw rolling green fields dotted with golfing superstars like Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark, Gwladys Nocera from France, Marianne Skarpnord from Norway, Finnish pair Ursula Wikstrom and Noora Tamminen, Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, Christine Wolf from Austria and Maria Verchenova of Russia.
Promising prize money of US$800,000, the tournament was co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour, China LPGA Tour and Korea LPGA Tour and highlights a unique three-in-one tournament format comprising an Individual Professional Team Competition played over 72 holes of individual stroke-play; a
72-hole Professional Team Competition whereby the scores of the top two players from 18 countries represented will be combined to determine the winning team; as well as a 72-hole stroke-play individual Amateur Competition.
“This tournament is kind of similar to the Olympics because we are playing for ourselves but also as part of a team,” said China’s Lin Xiyu. “I think that will give me experience and also Mission Hills and the National Team have helped me a lot throughout my career, so I think it’s an important tournament, and I’m glad to be here.”
Even the professionals who are still on the fence about joining the summer Olympics said the annual Mission Hills’ event is a priceless platform for practice.
“I’m not certain to play in Rio yet but every tournament is a great opportunity to get more World Ranking points, and this is a big event,” said Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen, who’s finished third place in the recent RACV Ladies Masters in Australia.
While some are preparing for the big show, others are making a name for themselves at the championship, such as world number 23 Ko Jin-young from South Korea, who hoped to be the third straight Korean winner of the individual title following the success of Park Inbee and So Yeong Ryu in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The inclusion of Korean players will also improve the event’s international standing, now that it’s trisanctioned with players from the KLPGA joining those from the China LPGA and LET.