I have to say that Oates and Golf Victoria have got it spot on with this event co-sanctioned by the ALPG Tour and Ladies European Tour. I’ve played in it for a few years now and watched it grow. It’s an original idea which needs a lot of thought and a golf course to manage 200 odd pro golfers. Yes, not men, not women. We are all just pro golfers this week. Alternating tee times, same practice facilities, same players lounge. And drum roll please ….. same prize money.

This year saw the total prize fund reaching $1m dollars (can anyone actually say that without doing the Austin Powers, Doctor Evil voice?)

Which also made the event eligible to became part of the LET tour and therefore bring some big names from Europe and LPGA tours.

It benefits from being on the week before the Oz open and the European players who play LPGA needing to get their tournaments in before the Solheim to impress Annika (like many of the great she only needs her first name). Once the girls play the courses and event, I think they’ll be back no matter what. 13th Beach Golf Links is one of the best venues we play all year. A proper golf course as myself and Mel Reid would say. One is called Creek and the other Beach. We play 1 round on each before a halfway cut then the beach for the weekend followed by another cut of 35 for Sunday’s play.

13th Beach Golf Links, Venue for the 2017 Victorian Open

Both are stunning tracks, but my favourite is the Beach as it has an exciting finish with two reachable par 5’s. A tough par 4 and 3, and a reachable par 4.

So the week begins with 17 degrees, rain, and wind. That’s Sunday and Monday. Come Wednesday it’s 36 degrees celsius and a southerly and quite frankly I don’t go out in it. I just watch the poor rookies who believe that playing a golf course on a day like today will do them some good. Bless they’ll learn.

Thursday comes and the temperature drops to mid 20’s, so does the wind and so does the scores. I’m choking on my Nutrigrain looking at Dame Laura fire an 8-under par score then cheekily saying how she hopes the afternoon lot get blown off the course. That we did, making it hard for anyone on the other side of the draw to challenge the top 10 after two rounds.

Dame Laura Davies

On courses like this (proper courses), you find that the cream rises to the top. It was no surprise to see Su Oh, Dame Laura, Mel Reid, Sandra Gal, Holly Clyburn and Nicole brooch Larsen at the top of the leader board. All of them have LPGA status. Waving the flag for us poor buggers on the wrong side of the draw was Angel Yin and Belen Mozo.

Angel is the next big thing, it’s not secret amongst us pro’s, but the world will find out soon enough. I haven’t seen talent like this since I played with ARIYA JUTANUGARN. As she smacked her tee shot in The German Open on a line I never knew existed. I stopped and looked at the caddy to see if he was going to throw her a ball to reload. Only for him to say “that’s perfect” and she hit 6-iron into a par 5. Angel is similar to Ariya – she is young, powerful, swings it pure and crushes it.

Angel Yin

Also, a very lovely chatty girl which makes her easy to like. #ballstriker

Minjee Lee
Australian, Minjee Lee

The only disappointment for the home fans was that Minji Lee didn’t feature, her brother Min Woo stole the limelight as top am and a total of -12 getting him inside the top 10 in the men’s event. However, Whitney Hillier put up a solid week of golf to continue her good start to 2017.

After three days of kind Melbourne weather, we finally got the cold and gale force wind. I, unfortunately, missed the 2nd cut of 35 so didn’t get out there Sunday.

Which was shame, as I love getting the waterproofs on and hitting punch shots. My only solace was I didn’t lose the birdie bet between a punch of us. Loser had to take a photo with a certain Australian golfer who is more famous for off the golf course antics than on it.

We are still waiting Sarah Kemp and Amy Walsh! The weather meant Mel Reid’s lead was very much gettable. That was evaporated in the first few holes by Belen. Now Belen is a pretty face (we aren’t blind), but this girl can golf. I grew up playing amateur golf with her, Aza and Carlotta. She shone just as brightly as the other two Solheim Cup players. It hasn’t quite clicked for her in America but she is a regular top 10 player in Europe and having won the British Amateur Championship in 2006, this weather and the course was right up her street.

Unfortunately her Sunday back nine was great leaving Sandra, Angel and Mel to fight it out for the title. As a friend and being English I wanted Mel to win but us English don’t have a great record against the Germans in sport (mainly football) so I was hoping she could hold her off. After three playoff holes, Sandra finally buckled leaving Mel Reid victorious.

We watched it on the bus to the airport through Nicole Broch Larsen’s phone. She said that Mel holed a bunker shot in the first round and right then Nicole knew she would win. This is another cool thing about the Vic Open, not Nicole and her betting tips, but that fact it was live on YouTube and Facebook live. What a fantastic concept and one which is free to watch instead of cable. We loved the ease of it and hope the fans did also. I thought it was very nice of Mel to take it to three extra holes so her friends and family could wake up Sunday morning in England to watch it. Such a considerate girl!

Mel Reid
2017 Victorian Open Champion, Mel Reid

The Vic Open deserved a champion like Mel, she will promote the event well and support it due to her love of Australia and links golf. I hope the event continues to grow but keeps its roots. We don’t have ropes for the crowd, players are accessible, and many stay on the course with members. The locals really get behind the event, and it feels like a family environment. A new concept which I hope is a model for future events. Well played Golf Victoria CEO, Simon Brookehouse and the State of Victoria for producing such a forward-thinking event.

And a great start to the LET season, with so many Europeans showing early form it’s looking like a good year for winning back the Solheim Cup .;)


Sophie Walker Women's GolfSophie Walker turned professional in 2006 after graduating from Loughborough University and a strong amateur career representing Great Britain and Ireland including winning the English Ladies Strokeplay in 2003.
A regular on the Ladies European Tour, Sophie enjoys traveling and testing her skills in competition on great courses around the world.

Follow Sophie Walker on tour on her website at sophiewalker.co.uk, and on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Image Credits:
Feature Photo of Oates Victorian Open Champion, Mel Reid courtesy of Golf Victoria.
Photo of Angel Yin courtesy of LPGA media