SINGAPORE - Golf in Singapore received a boost on Tuesday (Jan 28) with the announcement of the inaugural Hana Financial Group Singapore Women's Open in November, bringing the total of international tournaments in the Republic to four.
Three are women's events, starting with the Feb 28-Mar 1 HSBC Women's World Championship, followed by the Nov 6-8 Singapore Women's Open while two weeks later, the Singapore Ladies Invitational also makes its debut.
The men's SMBC Singapore Open, headlined by Olympic champion Justin Rose, was held earlier in January and won by American star Matt Kuchar.
For local golfer Koh Sock Hwee, who has been playing on both the China and Taiwan LPGA tours since 2017, the jump in big money women's tournaments is a boon for the fraternity.
The HSBC event has a US$1.5 million (S$2.03 million) prizemoney, the Singapore Women's Open offers 1 billion won (S$1.15 million) and the Invitational's purse is US$100,000.
Koh, 30, said: "Playing at home is nice because you can play in front of your family and friends. Even when we travel to a certain place a few times, it's different.
"When such events happen at home and when you visit the golf club, the working personnel are cheering for the local people and it gives you a bit more pride playing at home."
The Singapore Women's Open will be co-sanctioned by the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) and the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) and hosted at Tanah Merah Country Club's Tampines course.
It is part of a new Asian Ladies Professional Golf Series that kicks off on March 12 with the Taiwan Women's Open.
The new circuit is run by the Asia Golf Leaders Forum, a non-profit corporation that was initiated by the Korea Golf Association and the KLPGA along with golf associations of other Asian countries.
Hana Financial Group's sports marketing director Paul Park said: "We are proud to be involved with the creation of a national title in Singapore even though we are not based here. Our aim is to build the best women's professional golf tournament in Asia to develop women's golf in the region."
Prominent names like Australian world No. 9 Minjee Lee and former top ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand will headline the Singapore event which will have a field of 96 golfers. There will be around seven to 10 slots for local amateur and professional players.
Other rising stars set to participate include American Yealimi Noh, Thai Paphangkorn Tavatanakit, China's Sui Xiang and Yuka Saso of the Philippines, as well as a host of top players from the KLPGA.
Koh believes playing against some of the world's best is an invaluable learning opportunity.
"The KLPGA is a strong tour and it would be a good experience playing against people in those tours; there's so much to learn from them," she said.
"There's chance to see how different they are and how they approach the game differently while playing the same course."
SGA general manager Jerome Ng hopes hosting such a tournament can inspire the next generation of women's golfers.
He said: "We intend to do fringe activities (similar to its 'Discover Golf Carnival' at the SMBC Singapore Open) for our Women's Open so that we inspire the youth golfers in the future and let them take a look at the best in Asia compete."