One hundred and twenty-two players will tee it up at the Nexus Advisernet Bowra & O’Dea WA Open next week. For many, this will be a routine pit stop on their tour season. For the five women taking part, it’ll be anything but.
Through initiatives like the PGA and WPGA Tours of Australasia’s Webex Players Series, it’s becoming more common to see women and men competing in the same events off different tees. However, the difference between the Webex Series and the WA Open is that the latter sits solely on the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule. It’s a men’s event, so any women playing are obliged to play off the championship tees.
Taking on the men from the back tees is no meant feat. Just ask Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie, whose high-profile forays onto the PGA Tour in the early 2000s made global headlines, but not cuts.
After being granted a tournament invitation, Kathryn Norris (pictured above) is the sole woman professional who’ll tee it up at the WA Open. The Mandurah-based WPGA Tour member will be joined in the field by amateur stars Abbie Teasdale (Royal Fremantle), Celine Chen (Joondalup CC), Amanda Gan and Erina Tan (both Mount Lawley GC).
All will be attempting to do what Kirsten Rudgeley achieved in 2019 and make the cut. Then an 18-year-old amateur, Rudgeley became the first woman to ever make the cut at the WA Open – an accomplishment that even eluded LPGA Tour stars Minjee Lee and Hannah Green earlier in their careers.
Norris has previous experience of playing at the WA Open, having earned an exemption into the 2022 event after winning medallist honours in that year’s Women’s WA Amateur Championship. And while she’s excited to be back in the field, Norris is under no illusions about the challenge she faces.
“A woman would be lying if they said it wasn’t a little bit intimidating to play off the back tees,” she told GolfWA. “I play against the men off the blue and black tees at my home club pretty much every week, so I’m used to that extra distance but it is definitely a lot harder.
“For a woman to make the cut it would require making absolutely no mistakes and your short game would have to be on fire for the week. It’s doable, as we saw with Kirsten, and it’s an exciting opportunity, but it’ll be tough,” she laughed.
Amateur quartet earns chance to shine
The other four women in the field are GolfWA High Performance athletes Abbie Teasdale, Erina Tan, Celine Chen and Amanda Gan, who earned exemptions based on their elite status and proven pedigree of excellence.
Teasdale and Tan secured their places in the WA Open by virtue of finishing as the respective winner and runner-up in the 2023 WA Women’s Amateur Championship. Both also represented WA in this year’s Australian Interstate teams matches, alongside Chen and Gan, who have been stalwarts of WA state teams at junior and open-age level for some years.
Speaking about the exemptions granted to the five women, GolfWA Chief Executive Gary Thomas said: “We’re committed to providing opportunities for our elite women – both amateur and professional – to test themselves in competition at the highest level. When it comes to golf in our state, the WA Open is the pinnacle of that.
“All five are exceptional golfers and we’re delighted to be able to provide a platform for them to show the golfing community what they’re capable of.”