Gurgaon: A state-of-art revamped DLF Golf and Country Club; a significantly increased prize purse and a strong playing field will be the star features of the Hero Women’s Indian Open 2015. The only Ladies European Tour tri-sanctioned tournament in the country will be played from October 23-25, 2015.
While the reigning champion Gwladys Nocera of France is back to defend her title at the new Gary Player-designed DLF Golf and Country Club, a host of other stars, including former champion Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand, British duo Trish Johnson and Melissa Reid, US star attraction Cheyenne Woods, and India’s top golfers Vani Kapoor, Sharmila Nicollet and Vaishavi Sinha will also be in the fray.
Gwladys, currently occupying the fifth spot on the LET Order of Merit, has been in rich vein of form, and is expected to give an encore after clinching her first Women’s Indian Open title at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) last year. The French professional will, however, face a strong challenge from Melissa Reid (winner of the 2015 Turkish Airlines Open), Thidapa Suwannapura (winner – Hero Women’s Indian Open 2013) and Cheyenne Woods, the niece of American great Tiger Woods, who is on her maiden visit to India. She said, “I have always wanted to come to India and I am delighted to be here. I am excited about the Hero Women’s Indian Open and will try to do my best over the three days of play. I have a played few holes on the course and it is playing well. It is a bit tricky but that only makes it more interesting.”
Pawan Munjal, Chairman, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Hero MotoCorp Ltd, said “The Hero Women's Indian Open has come a long way and I have seen this event really grow in stature and popularity over the past few years. The participation of some of the top golfers from around the world is indeed a testimony to that. We have witnessed some fabulous performances in the previous editions and I am sure this year will be no exception. The Hero Women's Indian Open has also been a platform for budding Indian women golfers to showcase their skills and compete with some of the best in the world and I am sure this year's edition will set new benchmarks as well.”
The tournament, which is tri-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour , the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and the Women’s Golf Association of India, will feature 114 players from 31 countries fighting it out for supremacy. Since its inception in 2007, the tournament has seen six different winners in eight editions - Taiwan’s Tseng Ya Ni in 2007, Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum in 2008, 2009, and 2012, Dame Laura Davies in 2010, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall in 2011, Thailand’s Thidapa Suwannapura in 2013 and Gwladys Nocera last year. The tournament is yet to see an Indian winner and the fans will be hoping for a local talent to win the title and get an exemption to play on the LET.
The Indian challenge will be spearheaded by Vani Kapoor and Hero Motocorp sponsored Sharmila Nicollet. Vani has been in stellar form this season and leads the Hero Order of Merit. Talking to the media, she said, “The Hero Women’s Indian Open is one of the most important tournaments in my calendar and it is a privilege to play alongside the likes of Cheyenne Woods, Melissa Reid and other great players. This being my home course gives me a slight edge but it is one of the trickiest courses I have ever played on so it is going to be a challenging week. However, I have prepared well for the tournament and am expecting some good results by the end of the week.”
Sharmila Nicollet is in good form post her win at the Jaypee Greens last month and will be eager to claim her first victory on the LET. Another Indian golfer to watch out for will be Vaishavi Sinha. Vaishavi finished fifth last year and will be eyeing the coveted trophy this time around.
Kavita Singh, President of the WGAI, said “It’s wonderful to host the Hero Women’s Indian Open for the ninth edition. The tournament has carved a niche for itself and the presence of elite golfers bears testimony to this. I would like to thank our title sponsors Hero MotoCorp Ltd. for their continued support to women’s golf in India. On behalf of the Women’s Golf Association of India, I would also like to thank the Ladies European Tour and the Ladies Asian Golf Tour for their support to the event.”
After two years, the tournament is set to return to its ‘parent’ club – the DLF Golf and Country Club, where six previous editions were staged before it shifted to the DGC in 2013. For this event, the DLF Golf and Country Club is set to inaugurate India’s first Gary Player 'Black Knight'signature golf course. The length of the par 72 course is set at 6282 yards.
Earlier during the day, ‘Rest of the World’ team beat ‘Asia’ 3-1 in the Skills Challenge of the Hero Women’s Indian Open, 2015. ‘Rest of the World’ comprising of Defending champion Gwladys Nocera, Melissa Reid, Carly Booth and Cheyenne Woods won INR 90,000 as prize money while Vani Kapoor, Sharmila Nicollet, Thidapa Suwannapura and Kongraphan Patcharajutar had to be content with a prize purse of INR 30,000.
The Skills Challenge teed-off with the ‘Longest Drive’ competition. Rest of the sWorld beat Asia in this format after Ladies European Tour star Melissa Reid let loose a drive of 270-yards. Asia’s best reply in this contest came in the form of a 267-yard effort by Kongkraphan. Gwladys Nocera added to Asian’s woes with a brilliant shot which landed just 2 ft 9 inches from the pin in the ‘Pitching Competition’, far better than Vani’s effort of 5 ft 11 inches.
In the ‘Bunker Shot’ contest, Scotland’s Carly Booth ensured a ‘Rest of the World’ victory when her shot landed just 9 foot 5 inches from the pin in comparison to Kongkraphan’s shot, which landed 15 ft 4 inches away. Asia pulled one back, thanks to Sharmila’s exceptional shot in the ‘Putting Competition’ which stopped just 3 inches away from the pin, easily bettering Melissa Reid’s effort of 6 ft and 2 inches.