Defending champion Pajaree Anannarukarn returns to the site of her maiden LPGA Tour title, where she defeated Emma Talley with a par on the second playoff hole. Anannarukarn rallied after recording a triple bogey early in the final day on No. 6, but grinded to record a final-round 70 to force extra holes and become the season’s then fifth Rolex First-Time Winner of 2021.
Highlights of the women’s draw include Leona Maguire, the 2021 European Solheim Cup star who became the first player from Ireland to win on the LPGA Tour earlier this season at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony. She’s joined by LPGA Hall of Fame member Laura Davies as well as major champion Georgia Hall, who finished in a tie for 14th in last year’s event. Four-time LET winner Maja Stark, who leads in the Race to Costa del Sol, along with fellow countrywoman Linn Grant, the first woman to win a DP World Tour event at the co-sanctioned Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed, will also tee it up this week. The sponsor invites include two-time Epson Tour winner Lucy Li and Northern Ireland’s own Olivia Mehaffey.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ISPS HANDA WORLD INVITATIONAL
- This is the second edition of the ISPS Handa World Invitational; this is the first year with presenting sponsor AVIV Clinics
- In 2019, the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management was hosted by Galgorm Castle Golf Club and Massereene Golf Club as an event on the Challenge Tour with a women’s invitational featuring primarily LET Members. Jack Senior captured the men’s title in a playoff and Northern Ireland native Stephanie Meadow won the women’s draw
- Before this event in 2021, the last time the LPGA Tour competed in Northern Ireland was October 1984 for the Smirnoff Ladies Irish Open at Clandeboye Golf Club, where Kathy Whitworth won and collected a winner’s share of $22,500
- The total purse is $3 million USD, $1.5 million for men and $1.5 million for women
- Title sponsor ISPS Handa was founded by Dr. Haruhisa Handa in 2006 to further transformative power of sport across the world. The organization also headlines the ISPS Handa Vic Open which was contested in 2019 and 2020 as a jointly sanctionedevent bythe LPGA Tour,ALPG, European Tour and ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasiain Barwon Heads, Victoria, Australia
- Georgia Hall won the 2016 ISPS Handa Vic Open when it was known as the Oates Victorian Open and hosted by the ALPG Tour (now Women’s Professional Golfers’ Association of Australasia)
- This year’s sponsor exemptions are Lucy Li, Olivia Mehaffey, Billie-Jo Smith, and Aideen Walsh
132 men and 132 women; two separate 72-hole stroke play tournaments (one for men and one for women); cut to top 60 and ties after 36 holes, with a second cut to the top 35 and ties after 54 holes in each of the tournaments. For the first two rounds, all players will play one round on each course.
LUCY LI READY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE ANOTHER LPGA TOUR EXPERIENCE WITH ISPS HANDA WI SPONSOR EXEMPTION
Lucy Li has never been to Northern Ireland. Only to Scotland, “which is not the same thing.” But when she found out she’d be teeing it up at the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics as a sponsor’s exemption, she was more than excited. Li has only played in two events in 2022, including the Honda LPGA Thailand where she finished in a tie for 12th, a career-best result on Tour. The 19-year-old though has been spectacular this season on the Epson Tour, as she’s hoping to earn her LPGA Tour card for 2023 for the first time through the Race for the Card.
“Definitely felt good to see the results coming because I knew my game has been there for a while, so being able to put it together for two tournaments and get a couple of wins definitely felt really good,” said Li. “It was a great confidence booster for me.”
Li is currently first on the list thanks to four top-10 results in 11 events this season on the Epson Tour, in addition to two wins at the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship at the end of July. She ranks in the top 10 in many statistical categories on the Epson Tour, including first in scoring average (69.39), rounds under par (29), birdies (156) and rounds in the 60s (20). She’s second in greens in regulation (76.54%) and putts per GIR (1.75) in what is looking to be a career year for the young superstar, who burst onto the scene as a 12-year-old at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica in Pinehurst and joined the Epson Tour in 2020.
“I think it's just important to kind of keep doing what I'm doing, even if the stage is a little bit different,” said Li. “I think that's really important, just to say in the moment and trust my game.”