Asia and Europe’s top players will give this week’s World Ladies Championship build-up a fresh edge by going head to head in a friendly team competition.
Eight players from each continent will square off in a four-ball, better-ball matchplay tussle at Mission Hills Haikou in China which organisers hope could be the forerunner to a new event.
World No.1 Inbee Park will captain the Asians while world No.2 Suzann Pettersen will lead the European contingent.
The teams will contest the newly named Goodwill Trophy on the back nine of Mission Hills Haikou’s signature Blackstone Course tomorrow (Tuesday), two days before the World Ladies Championship begins on the same layout.
Ladies European Tour CEO Ivan Khodabakhsh – while stressing the informal nature of the event and that neither side should be considered an official representative team – welcomed it as an exciting innovation.
“Europe’s historic and record-breaking Solheim Cup victory over the United States last year was a massive boost for women’s golf and inspired fans around the world,” he said.
“The Goodwill Trophy is a fantastic opportunity to build on that, albeit against different opponents in a new and much more relaxed setting.”
Park, winner of three Majors last year, will be joined in the Asian line-up by South Korean compatriot So Yeon Ryu, the world No.5, and China’s top player, Feng Shanshan, who is ranked sixth.
The team will be rounded out by China’s Lin Xi Yu, Thai duo Ariya Jutanugarn and Nontaya Srisawang, and Chinese Taipei pair Lin Tzu-Chi and Chien Pei-Yun.
Playing on home soil and boasting three of the world’s top six, Asia will start as favourites but that will not worry Pettersen, the World Ladies Championship defending champion and a member of that victorious Solheim Cup team last year.
She leads a line-up that contains English trio Holly Clyburn, Hannah Burke and Trish Johnson, French trio Gwladys Nocera, Valentine Derrey and Joanna Klatten, and Italy’s Diana Luna.
“We’re delighted to be hosting the first women’s Goodwill Trophy and we hope this will be the forerunner to a new tournament in its own right,” said Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Mr Tenniel Chu.
“Last year’s Solheim Cup win was a milestone for women’s golf in Europe while the strength of the ladies’ game in Asia has been evident for years with players achieving fantastic results across all the major tours.
“So it is natural to put European and Asian teams in opposition for this inaugural tournament.
“Team golf ignites passions, fires the imagination and gives players and spectators alike a markedly different experience from individual events and we’re sure everyone is going to enjoy the competition.”
Europe won the 2013 Solheim Cup in Parker, Colorado by an 18-10 score, a record margin of victory for either team, while it was also the first time they had won in the US.
The US$600,000 Mission Hills World Ladies Championship will be the fourth event on this year’s Ladies European Tour schedule. It is organised in conjunction with the China Golf Association and co-sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour.
Mission Hills Haikou www.missionhillschina.com/en-US/haikou
Ladies European Tour www.ladieseuropeantour.com