Cheyenne Woods teed it up in her first Oates Vic Open last week, a unique Australian event in which (gasp!) the men and women compete at the same venue for equal prize money. That’s worth repeating: For equal prize money.
The experience got Woods thinking about the possibilities here in the U.S. with a certain famous uncle.
“You could do teams, you could do partners and I would pick (Tiger) as my partner,” she said. “I hope he would pick me! I think that would just be awesome.”
— Cheyenne Woods (@Cheyenne_Woods) February 5, 2018
A mixed event that featured an all-Woods team would be the biggest boost to the LPGA since Annika Sorenstam played against the men at Colonial.
While most of the golf world was glued to the PGA Tour’s desert party, Golf Victoria staged something far more meaningful last weekend at 13th Beach Golf Links. Two fields of 144 players played the first two rounds over the Beach and Creek Courses. The last two rounds were played over the Beach Course with 35 and ties advancing to Sunday.
Tee times alternated between the men and women for the entire week so that fans could easily watch both events.
Big THANK YOU to Simon and all his @VicOpenGolf crew for putting together this great event!! Men and women together for equal purse is brilliant. Favorite event of the year!! @LETgolf @ALPGtour @13thBeachgolf
— Sophie Gustafson (@SophieGustafson) February 5, 2018
The men’s Vic Open has been around since 1957, and past champions include Gary Player, Peter Thomson and Greg Norman. The women’s event began in 1988 but after four years was put on a 20-year hiatus. Golf Victoria reintroduced the women’s Vic Open in 2012 and staged it simultaneously with the men’s event.
The success of the mixed event is evidenced in the sharp purse increase. While the overall money still lags behind the top world tours, the men and women in Australia have risen together.
Oates Vic Open Purse Year-by-Year
2018: $650,000 (for each field)
Minjee Lee, 21, won this year’s contest by five strokes. The three-time LPGA winner also triumphed at this event as an amateur in 2014. Lee’s younger brother, Min Woo, also competed. Tasmanian Simon Hawkes won the men’s event in a playoff against Harrison Endycott.
This marks the second year the Ladies European Tour has co-sanctioned the event with the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour. The men’s event is sanctioned by the PGA of Australia.
There were several couples in the field, including Stacey and Darren Peters and former champs Marianne Skarpnord and Richard Green, who got engaged one week prior to winning their respective Vic Open events in 2015.
“I think it’s great for spectators to watch,” said Darren Peters. “They can learn a lot from the women’s game, and their short games are incredible and they hit the ball dead straight.”
Massive congrats to Minjee & Simon!! Thanks so much to @Golf_Vic @VicOpenGolf for the best week of the year!!! Loved playing in same field as my husband!! Thx to EVERYONE involved!! @drummondgolf @CallawayGolfAUS @LETgolf @ALPGtour @GolfAust @PGAofAustralia @OatesCleansBest https://t.co/UIIIuCRSyt
— Stacey Peters (@staceykeats) February 4, 2018
Added first-round co-leader David Bransdon: “We have been playing 72 holes stroke play forever and a day. Golf is now looking at different ideas to spice things up. The European Tour has the shot clock tournament later in the year, we have the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth stoke play/match play hybrid next week, and the Vic Open has been played in this format since 2012. Change is good.”
Two weeks ago at the LPGA’s season-opening event in the Bahamas, commissioner Mike Whan said he’d be surprised if the LPGA wasn’t hosting some kind of mixed event with the PGA Tour by 2019.
“I think we ought to just get started,” he said, noting that “it’s the kind of thing that will build its own momentum.”
Just ask the Aussies.