Women’s golf in India is poised for a major leap this season. The fledgling Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour in a major step forward has taken the prize money up by 66 % and the competition in the domestic is also being thrown open to international golfers.
The WGAI season will from this season align itself to international calendars. So, the 2012 season, which begins in August will conclude in December, but within this period it will have 12 events.
The opening event of the season will be treated like a ‘Major’ on the domestic circuit and the event scheduled to be held at the KGA Bengaluru will carry a purse of Rs. 10 lakhs. This will be followed by nine events with purses of Rs. Five lakhs each.
The Hero Women’s Indian Open will follow that and the season will end with a second ‘Major’ to be played for Rs. 10 lakhs on Matchplay format and the season-ending event will have another Rs. Five lakhs.
“The growth of prize money from the erstwhile Rs. 42 lakhs to Rs. 70 lakhs for 2012 is a huge leap forward and opening the events to limited international participation will also give our girls a taste of tough competition,” said Champika Sayal, Secretary General of the WGAI.
Keeping in mind the fact that from 2016 onwards Golf will be an Olympic discipline, Champika empathically stated, "All established Olympic aspirants who are a part of the World Professional or Amateur Rankings should be given playing courtesy access to all golf courses across India regardless of the strata of the society they belong to.”
The enhanced prize money will make it worthwhile for the Indian women professionals to make a good living, added WGAI officials, who have also embarked on their first-ever women caddy training programme.
The winner of the first Major event in KGA will get Rs. 2.30 lakhs and the prize money will be given to the top 16 finishers in the 54-hole, three round event.
The field for each event will comprise 16 Indian professionals, eight sponsor exemptions including internationals and six amateurs. These will include a maximum of eight professionals will be allowed on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Another highlight of the Tour will be that entries from the Hero Women’s Indian Tour for the Hero Women’s Indian Open will be chosen from the Indian Order of Merit and the players will need to play a minimum of six events to qualify for a ranking on the Merit list.
The 2011-12 season has seen Indian women professionals venture out into the European circuit. While Sharmila Nicollet came through grueling European Tour Qualifying School, seasoned Smriti Mehra has made use of the berths given to Indian pros by the Ladies European Tour besides getting some invitations. Nalini Singh Siwach, a promising star, has taken the step of going and playing in the Ladies European Tour’s Access Tour, the second rung Tour in Europe.