Golf’s global tour added another dimension to its growth around the world when it unveiled its first golf facility outside the United States last year. And this week, LPGA International Busan gets its first tournament test in the BMW Ladies Championship.
Formerly Asiad Country Club, built in 2002 for the Asian Games, the 27-hole complex was redesigned by famed architect Rees Jones, known as the Open Doctor for his many tweaks of what became U.S. Open courses. LPGA International Busan joins LPGA International in Daytona, Fla., also a Jones design, as an LPGA-branded golf course.
“I'm very impressed that LPGA International Busan is a completely different course from when I visited the venue in March last year,” LPGA Commissioner Whan said when the new facility was unveiled.
“It's a high-quality championship layout and with the best female players on the planet competing in the BMW Ladies Championship, the whole world will be able to experience the beauty of Busan. We look forward to collaborating with Busan to make LPGA International Busan one of the best golf destinations in Korea.”
Rees Jones Inc. has designed and redesigned more than 225 courses worldwide, including seven U.S. Open venues, eight PGA Championship courses, five Ryder Cup sites and one President’s Cup site. His courses have hosted over 100 championship events. This is his first project in Korea.
“I'm very happy to be able to open LPGA International Busan with the LPGA, which is leading the global standard for golf culture, and I expect this place to become a landmark for culture and tourism beyond just golf,” Busan Metropolitan City's Mayor Keo-don Oh Mayor said at the unveiling.
“Busan and the LPGA will work together to help Busan grow into a city that is central in leading Asian golf culture, starting with the first LPGA-certified golf course to open in the world outside the United States,” said the mayor of the second-largest city in the Republic of Korea.
The growth of the LPGA globally is nothing short of phenomenal. The tour that began in 1950 with 15 tournaments in 11 states now has 32 official events – plus the Solheim Cup – in 12 nations with a dozen of the 32 events in 11 countries outside the United States.
Korea joins China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and Singapore as Asian stops on the LPGA, which kicked off the international part of its schedule in February with two events in Australia. In Europe, the tour visited France, England and Scotland this summer as well as a North America event outside the U.S. in Canada.
For Korea, which last year embraced the International Crown with massive, passionate crowds as the home team won at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Inchon, this week’s tournament is a homecoming that showcases its success in women’s golf. Of the top 25 in the Rolex Rankings, 11 are from Korea and eight of them are competing this week.
The field for the inaugural BMW Ladies Championship shouts out the global strength of the LPGA. Among the 84 players are 11 members of the U.S. Solheim Cup team – including Danielle Kang, who won last week’s Buick Shanghai in China – and a half-dozen players from five different nations who were on the European team.
Also, in the field are two of the top Koreans – Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year race, and No. 3 Jeongeun Lee6, who has wrapped up Rolex Rookie of the Year – as well as Rolex top-10 players Brooke Henderson of Canada, Minjee Lee of Australia and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand.
After stops in Korea, Taiwan and Japan and then a week off, the tour returns to the United States the week of November 18th as the Race to the CME Globe concludes with the CME Group Tour Championship – and its record $1.5 million first prize – at Tiburón Golf Club in Naples, Fla.
The tour that began 70 seasons ago, at a time when players put 50,000 miles a year on the odometer of cars, now spans the globe as players collect 50,000 frequent flier miles.
The LPGA takes a major step forward this week with the debut of LPGA International Busan and the BMW Ladies Championship. Partnering a world-class golf course with an A-list title sponsor in a golf-passionate country is a win-win-win situation.
Now we find out the name of the fourth winner – the woman who, on Sunday, will hoist the trophy at the inaugural BMW Ladies Championship at LPGA International Busan – the latest addition to golf’s global tour.