The defending champion, French golfer Camille Chevalier leads the international star cast, alongside 2011 champion, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, Australian Sarah Kemp and the leading Ladies European Tour rookie this year, Swedish Julia Engstrom in a strong field that has assembled for the Hero Women’s Indian Open, which gets underway on Thursday.
The traditional trophy and a whopping cheque of US $ 75,000 awaits the winner as the Tournament carries a record purse of US $ 500,000 as the tournament will be telecast live in over 100 countries for the first time. The main event this year will be played over 72 hours and four days begins on Thursday.
The local challenge includes Vani Kapoor, tied-sixth and India’s top player at the event last year, and Tvesa Malik, playing her first HWIO as a professional. Tvesa leads the local Order of Merit on the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour.
The leading players got around to talking about their plans, before going onto the Hero Skills Challenge, which has become the regular warm-up and forerunner to the main event.
Camille Chevalier, 25, who has made four cuts in 10 starts in 2018 looks at HWIO to turn her form around. She said, “I have been practicing at the Le National in France before coming here. That is not my home course but is tough and great preparation for the HWIO. The rough is quite big there and as challenging as at this course. It was great winning last year and was a big moment for me. I am very excited to be back to defend the title.”
Hedwall, the 2011 champion, now 29, seeks to become only the second player to win the Hero Women’s Indian Open more than once. She has already won the Lacoste Open de France this season and is looking solid. She said, “When I won (in 2011), the course was a different one (Arnold Palmer course). I was here two years ago and it is amazing the course is looking and is challenging, too. In 2011, I had my mother on the bag, but she is not here this time and my sister, Jacqueline, (who also played college golf) is on the bag. I am showing here around and we love India.”
Sarah Kemp, 32, from Australia, still winless on LET, has three Top-5 finishes this year including Lalla Meryem Cup (2nd) and Lacoste Ladies Open de France (3rd). She is fifth on the Order of Merit this year, and said, “It has been a solid season. So far so good and I am full of confidence. This is a fantastic tournament and you have great support here. I love coming to India and I have been to Goa for holidays and I love the food here. The course is looking great and I will always love coming to India because I like it so much.”
The Swedish youngster, Julia Engstrom, has arrived without her golf bag. The 18-year-old who is leading the Rookie Standings and was fifth at Lalla Meryem Cup had Top-20 finishes in three of her last four starts. She smiled when told that Laura Davies, too, had her bag coming late in 2010, but she went on to win the title.
She said, “I am still waiting for my bags. I have been told they are arriving tomorrow. So far I have practiced with borrowed clubs. The guys at the pro shop put some clubs together which they felt would be good for me. I turned pro this year and the season has been good and the experience on LET has been great.”
Vani Kapoor, Tied-6th last year, has had an average season this year but is hopeful of a strong finish to get her 2019 card. She added, “I have been preparing hard. I was hit by tendinitis a few days back but I am hoping to get over that. This is my home course and I know it well, but as they say in golf, every shot is a new one and you never play the same shot again. Last one year has been one of great learning.”
Tvesa Malik, the 22-year-old leader on the domestic Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour has been having a great year with multiple wins and is looking forward to playing her first HWIO as a pro. She said, “It has been a great season and I have been improving a lot and I have been really looking forward to this event for long. I have played here often and know the course well and it is very challenging and is in great shape. As for my plans, I plan to go to the LET Q-School this year and have picked Vani’s brains on this a lot.”