Last week there were record prize funds for the Oates Vic Open. This event at Barwon Heads near Melbourne is not the biggest of tournaments but it carries an important distinction.
Men and women compete at the same time, on the same course and for the same prize money. There were two 144-player fields competing for £370,000 apiece.
World number 20 Minjee Lee, from Perth, took home the best part of £70,000 for her five-stroke victory, which counts on the Ladies European Tour, and Tasmania’s Simon Hawkes banks the same amount for his play-off win in the men’s version.
Hawkes now gains a place in this week’s World Super 6 in Perth, another innovative format, which will count on the European Tour.
Last week’s event in Victoria offers golf an attractive vision for the future. It is one of the few tournaments to recognise the sport’s ability to bring together both sexes under the same competitive umbrella.
“They do value the equality in both men and women’s golf together,” noted Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods, who lay second on the leaderboard after the first round.
“I think a lot of tours and sponsors can learn from that. You see it in the tennis game, just watching tennis the last few weeks, the Aussie Open. I think that hopefully in the next few years it will get more like this.”
Woods stated that she would one day love to team up with her Uncle Tiger in a mixed professional event, but this Australian tournament provides separate contests for male and female pros.