Royal Saudi Golf Federation signs on European Tour pair for new event

The LPGA Tour’s Thailand tournament, which has provided a formidable challenge for the world’s best players in recent seasons, was certainly no disappointment for the Chinese player Shanshan Feng, who was victorious at the…

Royal Saudi Golf Federation signs on European Tour pair for new event

The LPGA Tour’s Thailand tournament, which has provided a formidable challenge for the world’s best players in recent seasons, was certainly no disappointment for the Chinese player Shanshan Feng, who was victorious at the inaugural edition last year. She finished tied for 21st and went on to become the first Chinese player to win a major with her victory at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

She also has a European Tour record four-year reign as the highest-ranked player in the world. But that doesn’t mean she’s immune to disappointments, like when she turned in one of the worst third rounds of her career at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore in March, where she posted rounds of 74 and 78 and stood at a distant 19th place.

On the LPGA Tour, eight of the top 10 players this year are from the Asia Pacific region. Japanese star Hideto Tanihara, who finished tied for fifth in Malaysia this year, tops the rankings for the second consecutive year, followed by Feng at number two.

The next stop is the Saudi Ladies International Pro-Am, hosted by the Royal Saudi Golf Federation and Queen Rania of Jordan’s Tennis World Tour Events. Professionals only, and the event is the second women’s event on the HSBC Women’s Champions World Series. It is the latest development in the country’s rapid integration into the global club golf scene, following the launch of the 2018 Saudi Arabian Open in March and the launch of the LPGA Tour Thailand in 2015.

Among those attending this year’s tournament, which is part of the European Tour’s HSBC Women’s Champions World Series, are Ireland’s world number eight, Shauna Holmes, and Sweden’s number 13, Charlotte Besemer. Holmes, who will be looking to win for the first time in five years at the SUDIA event, told the media she’s had no reservations about playing in the tournament in Saudi Arabia, despite the risk of execution or flogging for women if they are accused of “moral offences” such as adultery or being deemed a “bad influence”.

“We would never turn down an opportunity to compete in front of a big crowd, and promote golf, on a world stage,” Holmes told Ritz-Carlton on Tuesday. “It’s an exciting time to be a female athlete, and there’s been a lot of things happening for female sport over the last 12 months.”

Before her interview, the publicist initially told us to turn down our bibs, for “violating the dress code”. I have had to wear a single-breasted blazer and pants since I was nine years old, and I refuse to bow to sexism. — Charlotte Besemer (@brob03) October 2, 2018

Meanwhile, American Charlotte Besemer, who will be playing in her first Saudi tournament, told the media that when it comes to wearing the bib, “I have to wear a single-breasted blazer and pants since I was nine years old, and I refuse to bow to sexism.”

Among the new additions to the KSA Pro-Am lineup, are Australia’s top women’s tour golfer, Minjee Lee, who is ranked number four in the world, as well as two of the top four LPGA Tour players, Lee-Anne Pace and Angela Stanford. Lee, who won in her first appearance in Malaysia two weeks ago, is coached by Lee-Anne Pace, whose father, Swanny, competed in the Asian Game, which was won by her and his daughter.

Stanford, who is playing her third event in Saudi Arabia, said she was excited to be a part of the country’s excitement about women’s golf, as well as the continued drive towards equality in the country.

“There are so many expectations in Saudi Arabia for women to be more than role models – they should make a visible impact in society, to progress, to achieve equality, to reach the best possible job, to have equal rights and opportunities,” she said. “It takes a lot of work, and I’m so glad they’re placing their hopes and aspirations in women.”

With no promises of widespread reform in Saudi Arabia, Lee-Anne Pace and her fellow pros will have to do just that.

• In association with London Light

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