This month Bonville Golf Resort will be hosting the Australian Ladies Classic, an event that is not only expected to bring a huge wave of visitors to our region, but to shine a light on what the Coffs Coast has to offer. We spoke to Graeme Phillipson of Golf NSW about what to expect from the event and the impact it is bound to have on the area.
Hi Graeme. Bonville Golf Resort will be hosting the Australian Ladies Classic this month; why have you selected Bonville at the Coffs Coast to host this brand new ALPG tour event?
Over the years, Golf NSW has run many major State Championships at Bonville Golf Resort. The team at the resort not only coordinate a great event, but also provide a level of service and overall experience to the players that is second to none. The Coffs Coast region is developing into one of New South Wales’ most important regional hubs and shows time and time again what a wonderful destination it is for major sporting events.
We are aware also how the Coffs Coast community and local businesses embrace events of this scale, and we are thrilled to be at Bonville with The Australian Ladies Classic.
The players from the ALPG ( Australian Ladies Professional Golf ) and LET (Ladies European Tour) who are competing at Bonville will get to experience what is, in our opinion, the most beautiful golf course in Australia.
Bonville is an asset not only to the Coffs Coast, but to New South Wales as well, and those competing in the Classic are going to be amazed at the course when they step through the gates. All the ingredients are here to make this tournament a great success.
What sort of preparations have been made to get ready for the event?
Preparations have been underway for some time now. The greens staff have bolstered in numbers and have been working hard to ensure the golf course will be at its best. In addition to the golf course preparation, we’ve also been working with the staff at the resort, the ALPG and the LET to finalise the field, arranging sponsors and preparing a number of off course activities in the lead up to the tournament. Again, we are very confident that the team at Bonville will deliver an amazing event.
The event has been secured for five years. What sort of an investment has been made in the Coffs Coast region?
The Australian Ladies Classic Bonville has been made possible due to hard work of several key parties, including the NSW Government and Destination NSW, who have backed the event in. It’s tipped to bring in over 16,000 domestic and international visitors over the next five years and introduce over $8 million to the local economy during that time. We hope to also showcase the best parts of the Coffs Coast, including its amazing coastline, hinterland and unique visitor experiences. Sharing these types of images across the globe encourages visitation by not only golfers, but anyone intending on travelling to Australia.
The event will be broadcast live to 68 countries around the world. What potential does this hold for golf tourism in NSW?
It holds huge potential for golf tourism here in NSW! Golf is easily one of the world’s most popular sports, with over 60 million people around the world who play. The Australian Ladies Classic broadcast will be over 10 hours, including rounds on both Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th February. It will capture not only some amazing golf, but the beautiful surrounds of Bonville. Golf tourism is worth around $1.1bn to the Australian economy, so we have a really switched on captive audience here. We’re lucky to have so many great golf courses throughout NSW, and we know that golfers will travel to tick the best courses off their list. That’s Bonville, a bucket list golfing destination!
Can you tell us about some of the big names who will start in the 2018 event?
The field consists of some amazing talent, including eight players who are European Tour event winners. Confirmed to start in the 2018 Australian Ladies Classic Bonville is four-time major winner Dame Laura Davies. She boasts 84 wins worldwide and is the only player to win tournaments on every continent in a single year. Arguably the finest women’s golfer ever, she has won the US Women’s Open, the Australian Ladies Masters and the Women’s Australian Open and was recently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Western Australia’s Hannah Green claimed three Symetra Tour titles last year in the USA and secured her LPGA Tour card. She will tee off at Bonville in peak form, and she seems so hungry at the moment. Rebecca Artis from the Gold Coast is a seasoned professional and will draw a crowd at Bonville, as well as Sarah Kemp, who could very likely make the leaders group come Sunday’s final round.
Which Aussies do you think will make a run at the tournament trophy?
It would be hard to go past Hannah Green. Hannah has all the tenacity of a rookie mixed with a maturity beyond her years. Bonville is a resort style golf course, so it will be interesting to see what happens over the first couple of rounds, but Hannah really has nothing to lose.
Hole 10, for instance, is a real risk or reward. You can play it as a three shot hole, but there is every opportunity to go for the green in two. Setting up eagle and birdie chances like that might just see her at the top of the leader board at Bonville. There are quite a few holes with very approachable greens, so there will be some really exciting golf in store and with a $350,000 prize purse on offer, there’s a lot of incentive for many of the players to make the cut and make a run at the trophy on the Sunday.
Tell us about the celebrity Pro-Am and the shootout you have planned as part of the event.
We have planned for a celebrity Pro-Am to kick off proceedings. Bonville has a long association with many of Australia’s finest Olympians and other celebrities, who will join many of the players on course in the lead up to the main event. While players will be given the chance for some warm up rounds earlier in the week, you can be sure that they will be taking this opportunity to acquaint themselves with the unique features of Bonville.
The Shootout will be played on the eighteenth hole, where players will hit from approx. 150 m to a pin set well back on the top tier of the green. There is $75,000 on offer as cash prize money. It will add a great little element of fun to the week’s festivities.
How would you like to see the event grow over the next five years?
We know that Coffs Harbour will get behind this event. The local business community has already done so, many of whom have come on board as sponsors. The idea is to make it not only one of the premier events on the tour from a tournament perspective, but make it a really attractive one for touring professionals. We hope that they walk away from Bonville and The Coffs Coast as raving fans, given the welcome and hospitality they receive. We would love to see the people of Coffs Harbour embrace the event and the people who come to visit; this is bound to attract more sponsorship, plenty of high profile players to future events and the attention of the golfing world.
Where can we watch all the action of the Australian Ladies Classic Bonville?
There are spectator tickets available for the event. Tickets are FREE, but you must register at www.ausladiesclassic.com.au
The tournament will be broadcast live on Fox Sports on both Saturday and the final round Sunday, or you can stream all the action at www.epicentre.tv