Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, described the potential of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship as “extraordinary” at a press conference featuring the championship’s Founding Partners at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific was developed by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) and The R&A to nurture talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite female amateurs to the international stage. The inaugural edition teed off at Sentosa Golf Club’s New Tanjong course on Wednesday and will conclude on Saturday.
Slumbers said the annual championship, which will be held in Japan in 2019, had enormous potential and was part of an overall vision to grow the game globally and to bolster women’s and girls’ golf.
“When I look at golf around the world, what drives me is that I want to make sure golf is still thriving 50 years from now. A key part of that is growing the women’s game, not just here in Asia but throughout the world. The biggest opportunity for golf to grow is by growing the women’s game,” Slumbers said.
“I think the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific is really special. It’s fantastic to be at the beginning of something that could be extraordinary. We have 83 players in the field and 48 of them are 18 or under. Our objective is for this championship to be viewed as one of the world’s top amateur events for women. The exemptions that the winner on Saturday will receive is commensurate with that and puts this championship right up at the top of elite amateur events.
“Over time, the field will grow and deepen – we’ve seen that in the men’s event – and the standard will continue to rise right through the field and that has to be good for the game of golf.”
The concept of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific was discussed at the 2015 edition of the men’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, an event created by The R&A, APGC and the Masters Tournament, and which rewards the winner with invitations to The Open and the Masters Tournament.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific also follows on from the enormous exposure generated by golf’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Korea’s Inbee Park, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and China’s Shanshan Feng won gold, silver and bronze respectively, while Japan’s Haru Nomura and Korean Amy Yang shared fourth place with American Stacy Lewis.
APGC Chairman Kei Muratsu, speaking alongside Slumbers at the press conference, was similarly enthusiastic about the championship’s role in elevating the profile of golf in a region with 60 per cent of the world’s population.
“Three years ago at the men’s event we discussed whether we could create a similar event for women golfers. The original idea of the men’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was ‘Creating Heroes’ and to show the rest of the world how golf is really growing in this region,” Muratsu said.
“With the tagline ‘Shaping The Future’, the women’s event builds on the great showing at the Rio 2016 Olympics where the top three and five of the top six players were from the Asia-Pacific region. Korea are also the reigning champions in the Espirito Santo Trophy (World Amateur Team Championships for women) while players from Asia-Pacific have been dominant on the LPGA Tour. This championship is a great platform for showcasing future stars from our region.”
The winner will earn invitations to both the ANA Inspiration (29 March-1 April) at Mission Hills Country Club in California, USA, and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (2-5 August) at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England, as well as next week’s 11th HSBC Women’s World Championship, also at Sentosa Golf Club.
Thai golf prodigy Atthaya ‘Jean’ Thitikul, 15, carded an even-par 71 to hold a share of the lead with 17-year-old Korean Yunji Jeong (67) after the second round of the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore
Top picture: Chief Executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers with Chairman of Asia Pacific Golf Confederation Kei Muratsu (photo credit R&A)
For more information on the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, visit www.randa.org/WAAP