Indian women’s golf will benefit from Indian Open: Laura Davies

Gurgaon: Indian golfers, led by the glamorous Sharmila Nicollet, the current leader on the domestic Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour, will have the opportunity of rubbing shoulders with some of the very best in women’s golf as they tee up for the fifth edition of the Hero Women’s Golf next week. The tournament will be played at the award-winning DLF Golf and County club from December 9 to 11. DLF is hosting event for the fifth year in succession.

Indian challenge will also include Smriti Mehra, the doyen of women’s professional golf in India, and who herself helped in establishing and popularizing women’s golf in India.

The Indian challenge will also include the likes of Nalini Singh (Siwach), Neha Tripathi and Saaniya Sharma among the 108 players who will play in the US $ 300,000 event.

Leading the star cast is Britain’s most successful golfer, Laura Davies, the defending champion, who is looking forward to her second visit to India. Davies has recorded at least one victory in each season of her 27-year career, with the exception of 2005.

Now that the tournament is in its second year on the LET schedule, Davies hopes to see an increased number of spectators to inspire more Indian women to take up the game.

Despite being winless for almost 12 months, Davies believes that 2011 could turn out well as she looks to finish the season strongly as she starts her title defence at the Hero Women’s Indian Open.

Davies insists that she has had multiple opportunities to win on Tour since clinching her 79th career title on LET in a four-way play-off last year at DLF Golf and Country Club, but added: “It just hasn’t been my year at all, certainly on the greens, it just hasn’t worked out.”

Aside from winning The Solheim Cup as part of the European team in Ireland in September and tying for second in another team event, the European Nations Cup, in April, her best individual finish this season was a share of seventh at the New Zealand Women’s Open in February.

She is determined to turn the corner in India with the help of new Srixon clubs and a ‘Never Compromise’ putter.

“I don’t think that the course necessarily suits me but on the other hand I’m playing so well, if I can hole some putts, which has been the problem all year, then I believe I’ll have a chance,” she said. 

Last year, when Davies won five times on the LET to finish second on the Henderson Money List, she lost her golf clubs on the way to India and spent the first morning of the tournament getting them released from customs. Despite playing the course blind, she shot seven under par in the first round, only losing her lead to South African Tandi Cuningham with a seven over par 78 on day two.

However, after a roller-coaster week, she saved the best for last, shooting two under on Sunday and eagling the last to make a four-way play-off with Cuningham, Thailand’s Nontaya Srisawang and Swede Louise Friberg.    “I birdied the first extra hole and they all parred it or worse, so it was a very bizarre week with a great ending,” she said.

The tournament was established by the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and Women’s Golf Association of India in 2007 and became tri-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour in 2010, launching an exciting new chapter in the history of the event.

The two-time former event champion Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand (2008, 2009) is among those returning to the venue, along with the 2010 LET Henderson Money List winner Lee-Anne Pace and the recent Sanya Ladies Open champion, Australian Frances Bondad.

Newcomers to the event include the flamboyant Christina Kim of the United States, who won the Sicilian Ladies Italian Open on the LET in October.

Henderson Rookie Caroline Hedwall, who has won three LET titles this year, is also teeing up along with fellow Swede and European Solheim Cup team member Sophie Gustafson.

Other prominent players in the field include the Lacoste Ladies Open de France champion Felicity Johnson, Jade Schaeffer, who recently won in Prague, the Lalla Meryem Cup winner Zuzana Kamasova and Ashleigh Simon, winner at the Portugal Ladies Open.

Becky Brewerton and Trish Johnson will return to India for the first time in four years along with Gwladys Nocera from France, who won the LET’s EMAAR-MGF Indian Ladies Masters in Bangalore in 2007.