IT is highly fitting that in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the world’s best women players should enjoy a meeting with golfing royalty.
The Ricoh Women’s British Open breaks new ground when it gets underway at Royal Liverpool this month.
But the fact that the tournament is now contested over some of the sport’s most famous links courses shows how far it has come under the careful stewardship of the Ladies Golf Union.
“It is our flagship event,” says LGU chief executive Shona Malcolm, “and we are delighted to bring it to a venue like Royal Liverpool.
“The club has always been strong supporters of women’s golf, having staged events like the Curtis Cup and British championships.
“We have been running the event since 1976 and have been really pleased to see how it has continued to grow over the years.
“Becoming one of the women’s four majors was a huge step forward while the arrival of Ricoh as title sponsors in 2007 has taken it to a new level. Weetabix were fabulous supporters of the event, but Ricoh have wanted to do things a bit differently and the fact that the event is now played on courses like Hoylake shows how it has grown in stature.”
The event returns to the home of golf at St Andrews in 2013 before making a quick return to Merseyside, with Royal Birkdale the host course 12 months later.
“These are the kind of courses that attract the world’s best players – they relish the chance to play in the homeland of golf and play a different kind of golf on a links course - which is where it should be played!
“Royal Liverpool is a great course, but it is different to some of the others, has its own quirks and if the wind blows it can be quite a different proposition.”
Last year’s Women’s Open tempted all but two of the world’s top 50 ranked players to Carnoustie and this year’s event will continue the trend – with the added attraction of providing a chance to see the sport’s newest sensation in action.
Lydia Ko became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour when she captured last month’s Canadian Women’s Open.
At just 15 years of age, the New Zealand amateur is already ripping through the record books, having won her first professional tournament at the New South Wales Open in January, when she was still only 14.
The South Korean-born teenager had qualified for the Ricoh Women’s British Open after winning the US Amateur Championship but is showing no signs of hurrying towards the paid ranks.
She already has some experience of links golf along the north west coastline, having played for New Zealand in the Astor Trophy team competition at Fairhaven, near Blackpool, last year.
“She is already a top class player,” added Shona, “and joined in the social side of the event with the other girls as well so I am sure a lot of golf fans are looking forward to seeing her play.”
Hopes are high that Royal Liverpool could attract record crowds – with figures of 70-75,000 being touted.
“Whenever we visit the north west, whether it be Royal Lytham or Royal Birkdale we get so much support,” added Shona. “Hopefully the feelgood factor from the Olympics will continue and people will want to be involved in another major sporting event. I am sure there will be a real buzz around the place. It would be great to see a home player winning, but it will be the best player over the four days who comes out on top.”