Pro-am player drain?
By STEVE SPINKS
SCHEDULING has left next month's Optus World Ladies Pro-Am facing a potential player drain.
The Australian Women's Open at Kingston Heath will start next week and run from January 31 to February 3 while the Masters will be held at Royal Pines from February 7 to 10.
The fifth $15,000 Pro-Am at Coraki is scheduled for February 17, a week after many of the top players may have left the country.
It's a disappointing turn of events for the Northern Rivers' premier women's tournament.
In the first three years of the Pro-Am it was scheduled the week before the Masters at Royal Pines, which drew some top players looking to refine their game ahead of the big money tournament.
"The same thing happened last year," Coraki spokesman Peter Cordery said.
"We got put after the Masters. Hopefully it won't have a major impact on us. We'll keep our fingers crossed."
However, according to Cordery the quality of the field last year was down on previous years.
"We're at the mercy of the ALPGA (Australian Ladies Professional Golfers Association)," he said.
"When it comes down to it sometimes there are more high profile pro-ams that are able to offer larger prizemoney."
Despite the scheduling problems, last year's winner was Rebecca Stevenson who went on to have a successful year on the European tour, while the 2006 winner was Sarah Kemp who qualified for the US tour in December.
Nicole James won the first event in 2004 and Melanie Holmes-Smith from Melbourne won the 2005 Pro-Am.
Past players have included the United Kingdom's Laura Davies, Casino's Michelle Ellis and trans-sexual golfer Mianne Bagger.
"I think the great thing about Coraki is that some of the girls that have won have gone on to bigger and better things," Cordery said.
"There are always plenty of young players coming through and they're after everything they can get.
"We hope we get a lot of those up-and-comers that will go on while some of the others like coming down here because it's something different from things they have experienced previously."
The event will once again be an ALPGA-sanctioned order of merit tournament.
More than 40 professionals are expected to compete.
"Hopefully the rain will now hold off to enable the greens staff to present the course in its usual immaculate condition," club president Mark Scurr said.
"We've received many letters of appreciation from lady professionals who've competed previously, saying that they really enjoyed the day and will return if possible.
"We've got a full weekend of activities planned, including a pre-tournament dinner on the Saturday night, so we're really looking forward to it."
For further information regarding the Pro-Am or the pre-tournament dinner contact Mark Scurr on 0413 488 153 or Peter Cordery on 6620 3696.