Laura Davies Returns To Defend Women’s Indian Open

New Delhi: The Hero Women’s Indian Open 2011 is set to tee-off with its strongest-ever line-up as defending champion Laura Davies, and two-time former champion Phatlum Pornanong are among the top stars confirming their participation in the flagship event at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon from December 9 to 11.

Around 108 golfers from 26 countries will feature in the $ 300,000 (Euros 225,000) event tri-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour (LET), the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) and Women's Golf Association of India (WGAI). The event will be played over three days and 54 holes.

The field includes eight golfers, who between them have won 10 events this year. It also features each of the LET Henderson Money List winners since 2006, including the 2010 Henderson Money List champion Lee-Ann Pace of South Africa, who played here last year as well.

Alexandra Armas, Executive Director of the Ladies European Tour, hailed the tournament as a big step forward in the LET’s growth internationally and a sign of the growing strength of golf in India. “We are all very excited and looking forward to the Hero Women’s Indian Open at the beginning of December.  The tournament is part of our final stretch of events that will be critical in deciding the players’ final order of merit and ranking positions.  There will be a lot of interest in following the tournament results as it approaches the end of a hugely exciting season. 

“This year’s Hero Women’s Indian Open field assembled by the LET is one of the strongest all year, attracting players from over 25 different countries.  We have three life members in the field with Laura Davies, Trish Johnson and Sophie Gustafson, last year’s Order of Merit winner Lee-Ann Pace, 17 tournament winners including rookie sensation Caroline Hedwall.”

Pawan Munjal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Hero MotoCorp Ltd, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to know that so many top women stars will be participating in this year’s Hero Women’s Indian Open. This is a landmark year because we are celebrating the 100 years of golf in India, and therefore, the Hero Women’s Indian Open 2011 assumes greater significance. Golf is today the fastest rising sport in the country and we are happy to have played our small role in the evolution of the game in India. The popularity of the game amongst women and youngsters bodes very well for the future.”

Kavita Singh, President of the WGAI, said, “With Hero MotoCorp as the sponsor and the support of Ladies European Tour (LET) and Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT), the WGAI has seen the Women’s Indian Open grow into one of the biggest events in the region. Now in its fifth year, the Hero Women’s Indian Open has a purse of US $ 300,000. I am also thankful to the sponsors for supporting the fledgling Women’s Professional Golf Tour. I am sure as years roll by women’s golf take its due place as one of the avenues for a viable career for Indian sportswomen.”

The stellar field is headlined by the legendary Laura Davies, who despite the late arrival of her golf bag, won the 2010 Hero Women’s Indian open and boasts of more than 80 international titles, including four Majors. She also won the British Open, before it became a Major on the LPGA Tour. Winner of seven Ladies European Tour Money List honour, the 48-year-old veteran Davies, returns to defend her title. She won five titles in 2010 and finished second on the Henderson Money List.

Also in the field is the 37-year-old Sophie Gustafson, a four-time Money List champion, and winner of 29 titles internationally, including five on the LPGA and 14 on the LET.

South African Lee-Ann Pace, 30, and winner of five titles and the Henderson Money List title, is back for a second taste of Hero Women’s Indian Open.

The field also includes the flamboyant Christina Kim of the United States, who has played on the LPAGA Tour also. She joined the LET IN 2011 and immediately won the Sicilian ladies Italian Open. She had two top-10s in Majors in 2010 and was third at the 2009 British Open.

Also teeing up will be one of the new and emerging stars of Ladies golf is Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, who has won three titles this year and is currently leading the race to become the Rookie of the Year and is also chasing the honour in the main Money list, as she lies third.

Other prominent players in the field are 2008 Indian Masters winner, Gwladys Nocera (Swe), former LPGA player, Jennifer Rosales (Phi), Phatlum Pornanong (Tha), winner of 2008 and 2009 Indian Open.

Davies, Gustafson and Hedwall were also part of the winning European Team in Solheim Cup, the ladies version of Ryder Cup against United States.

The Women’s Indian Open has proved to be a stepping stone for many golfers in the region. The inaugural winner of Indian Open in 2007, Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei, is now World No. 1 and already at 23 has won five Majors, an unprecedented record in women’s golf. The 21-year-old Thai Phatlum Pornanong, who achieved back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009, is now one of the stars of Asian Ladies golf.

Interestingly, the field has six players, who between them have won the European Order of Merit 15 times since 1990.