The Vancouver Golf Tour has been a stepping stone for the likes of Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin to the PGA TOUR and commissioner Fraser Mulholland would love to see it help provide a path for female players looking to make their way to the LPGA Tour.
Mulholland hopes the inaugural GolfBC Group B.C. Women’s Open, to be played June 4-5 at Mayfair Lakes Golf & Country Club in Richmond, is a significant first step.
“We’ve always wanted to grow the women’s game and our fields have always been open for female players to play against the men and have as much opportunity as possible to win first-place cheques with a big field,” Mulholland says.
“We have tried to launch women’s open divisions in all of our events but the field sizes just haven’t been big enough on the pro side particularly... we just felt like we needed to try and create something bigger.”
The B.C. Women’s Open is a collaboration with the GolfBC Group, which owns and operates five clubs and eight courses in B.C. as well as the three Wailea courses on the Hawaiian island of Maui. “They (GolfBC) thought highly of trying to help launch a women’s event and get something going for women’s golf,” Mulholland says. “So they have stepped up and supported that at Mayfair Lakes and made it possible.”
The B.C. Women’s Open will offer a $10,000 purse for pros and $10,000 worth of prizes for amateurs. The pro winner will earn $3,000 and one additional perk. “What we are going to do for the champion this year is we are going to pay for free flight and paid entry into the final qualifier for this summer’s CP Women’s Open in Ottawa,” Mulholland says. “And if our winner could play their way into the field of an LPGA event that would be a tremendous story.”
Mulholland hopes to attract a field of 100 players for this year’s event at Mayfair Lakes. “We have it marked at approximately 40 pros and 60 amateurs,” he says. “We have a feeling like it could be more like 80 amateurs and 20 pros. There’s just not that many pros in BC. We are going to have to really work at leveraging the whole province to try and get some of the female pros to come down from other parts of the province.”
One of the favourites figures to be Richmond’s Christine Wong, who won the 2021 PGA Women’s Championship of Canada. Wong, who has a busy teaching business at University Golf Club in Vancouver, is just getting back into playing some competitive golf after being injured in a car accident early last fall.
VGT Commissioner Fraser Mulholland (L) Knows 2019 Vancouver Women’s Open Champion Christine Wong (Holding Trophy) Will Be A Factor In The B.C. Women’s Open. (Image Courtesy Vancouver Golf Tour)
“When he reached out to me about the prospect of this event earlier this year, I was really excited about it,” Wong said. “I’ll certainly be there. I know a few girls who have already signed up for it and I have actually been trying to convince some of the Alberta girls to play. I know Katy Rutherford (of Calgary) is coming out to play in it.”
Kat Kennedy, who won the 2021 PGA of BC Women’s Championship, is intrigued by the new event. Kennedy, a former University of B.C. standout, recently started a new job as an associate pro at Kelowna Golf & Country Club and hopes to play at Mayfair Lakes. “It absolutely interests me,” says Kennedy.
“There seems to be fewer events for female pros. We are looking to participate in bigger field female events, so having added an event like this in the Lower Mainland, especially at a fun track like Mayfair Lakes, hopefully it will attract more female professionals to come out and play.”
The B.C. Women’s Open will be open to players with handicaps of 20 or less. “We’ll have flighted divisions for some of the ladies who maybe can’t challenge for the overall tournament,” Mulholland says.
In recent years, Canada has been producing more male pros playing at high levels than female pros. Mulholland and others think that is a reflection of the opportunities each are given. Young male pros, quite simply, have more places to play than their female counterparts. The demise of the former Canadian Women’s Tour a few years ago was a blow to the development of female players.
Canada currently has eight players, including four from B.C., on the PGA TOUR. There are only three Canadian women with current status on the LPGA Tour. “We don’t have as much Canadian content out there on the LPGA and Epson Tours as the men,” Mulholland says. “It’s because they don’t have anywhere in their country to play.
“Female pros are asking for more tournaments, so here is a new one and hopefully it is a segue into something bigger next year.”
Rita Rennie, director of marketing with the GolfBC Group, said the company is pleased to play a part in trying to grow the women’s game. “For the health and future of the game, it is important to grow female participation,” Rennie said.
“I feel like there are a lot of golf/fun/social events and leagues available to women, but there is a gap in options for female professionals and low handicap amateurs who are looking to test or hone their skills in a serious competitive environment dedicated to women. When the concept of a Women’s Open was brought to us, I knew I wanted GolfBC to be a part of it.”
For more information on the B.C. Women’s Open, visit vancouvergolftour.com. GolfBC is also partnering with the Vancouver Golf Tour for the inaugural JM Media Island Open, which goes May 2-3 at Olympic View Golf Club in Victoria.