LPGA TOUR: Heading the list of golfers is top ranked Lydia Ko (right) of New Zealand and Inbee Park (left), of South Korea. (AP)
By RENALDO DORSETT
A mainstay on the Bahamas’ sports tourism calendar for the immediate future, the Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) Pure Silk-Bahamas Classic is set to tee off in just over two weeks featuring the best 120 female golfers in the world.
This year’s tournament, to be hosted January 25-31 at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island, will be the third edition and stakeholders have reached an agreement to ensure that the Bahamas plays the role of hosts through 2018.
Pure Silk and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism signed a three-year contract, which includes a purse increase of $100,000 to $1.4 million, and establishes the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic as the season-opening event on the LPGA schedule.
This year’s event will feature the top ranked golfers on the LPGA Tour.
Heading the list is top ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand with 10 career victories and 39 career top 10 finishes to her résumé. In 2015 she became the youngest player ever to win the Rolex Player of the Year, was the “Race to CME Globe” winner and the tour’s money winner.
Ranked No.2 is Inbee Park of South Korea, a former world No.1 who has won seven major championships in her career, including the Women’s PGA Championship and Women’s British Open last season.
When the agreement was signed, both representatives from the LPGA and the Ministry of Tourism spoke on their optimism of the partnership.
“We cannot thank our partners at Pure Silk and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism enough for their loyal support,” said Jeff Raedle, president of Global Golf Management, the organisation that manages the tournament. “Their generous commitments provide a solid foundation for the tournament moving forward. We feel that cementing the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic as the lead-in event on the LPGA calendar is pure magic.”
“We are very excited to be partnering with Pure Silk to host the already popular Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic for another three years,” said Minister Wilchcombe. “Sports are intrinsic to the Bahamian culture, and we have a particularly close relationship to golf, and are fast tracking our golf product to be the best in the region. Hosting this wonderful tournament for the LPGA allows us to both support a beloved sport as well as share our courses with golf enthusiasts around the world. We truly look forward to further strengthening the popularity of this wonderful competition and cannot wait to watch the tournament in 2016.”
The Bahamas will be represented by Georgette Rolle who was able to out-distance Raquel Riley by five strokes to secure the Bahamas’ berth in the event at last month’s playoff.
At the two-day trial hosted by the Bahamas Golf Federation at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island, Rolle shot rounds of 83 and 85 on Saturday and Sunday for a cumulative score of 168 to regain the spot she held two years ago. Riley, the Bahamas representative last year, had to settle as the runner-up with rounds of 85 and 88 for her total of 173. That will allow her to compete in the qualifying round to earn her way into the tournament.
By virtue of winning the tournament, 29-year-old Rolle will be the face of the Bahamas once again in the tournament. Two other competitors participated, but collegian Taneka Sandiford and teenager Inecia Rolle didn’t fare as well and were out of contention.
Rolle, the teaching professional at the Bahamas Golf Federation’s Driving Range, said she was extremely delighted to be back in the swing of things after relinquishing the spot she held two years ago to Riley last year.
The Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic brings about 120 golfers from around the world to Paradise to compete for a purse of $1.3 million, plus a full allocation of points in the Race to the CME Globe season-long competition. The winner receives $195,000 and 500 CME Globe points.