LPGA Set to Co-Sanction Women’s Australian Open
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

The defending champ says woohoo!

Hit by a tough economy over the last several years, the LPGA was forced to look beyond North American borders and to Asia to fill its slim schedule — and now, the tour is expanding its global reach to Australia. Earlier this week, the LPGA announced the co-sanctioning of the Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne in February 2012. Which can’t be anything other than good news, right?

From various reports:

“All credit goes to Golf Australia for their consistent vision to bring the LPGA Tour to Australia,” LPGA Tour Commissioner Michael Whan said. “The LPGA is delighted to partner with Golf Australia to showcase some of the greatest golfers in the world in one of the greatest locations in world — the famous Melbourne Sandbelt — and at one of the most respected golf venues in the world — Royal Melbourne.”

The LPGA Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf said Thursday that the $1.1 million Women’s Australian Open will be played from Feb. 9-12 and begin a three-tournament swing in Asia that includes stops in Thailand and Singapore. In 2013, the Australian Open will move to Royal Canberra.

“This is a landmark day for Australian golf and particularly women’s golf in Australia,” Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt said. “This is a very exciting time in Australian golf and a year of firsts for the championship. We’re looking forward to working with the LPGA on a world-class event on Royal Melbourne’s composite course for the first time.”

Top-ranked Yani Tseng won the event this year at Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne.

“Australia is one of my favorite places in the world,” Tseng said. “I won the Australian Open last year and the attendance was great. I’m really excited to go back and defend my title as an LPGA tournament. I think everyone from LPGA is very excited for it.”

The LPGA has initially signed a two-year deal, but Pitt is confident the relationship will extend to 2014 and 2015. The Golf Australia CEO added that the LPGA tried to negotiate a four-year agreement, but Pitt wanted to get through the first two years.

From 1997 to 2000, the Australian Ladies Masters was co-sanctioned by the LPGA and ALPG.

15 of the top 20 players in the world have already committed to the event, including defending champ and world No. 1 Yani Tseng.

“As an Australian, I’m very happy to see the LPGA playing back in my home country,” four-time Women’s Australian Open winner Karrie Webb said. “I know the Melbourne sport fans will support the event in the true fanatical way they always do.”