Stephen Pitt: 2012 kicks off in style

Welcome to the New Year. I hope you enjoyed the festive season with friends and family and found time to play some golf during the break.

The industry finished 2011 at one of the biggest peaks in popularity for Australian golf in recent memory with a stretch that included the Emirates Australian Open, Presidents Cup, Australian PGA Championship and JBWere Masters.

Yani Tseng Yani Tseng will return to Melbourne to defend her title at the 2012 Australian Women’s Open

As part of our work over this period, it was important to capture the attention of those who may have been engaging with the game for the first time and give them a range of options of how to become involved.

To that end, part of our program included the launch the Crown Lager Social Golf Club and PlayGolf.com.au which cater to various audiences and ultimately provide some of what we believe people want from the sport, or gives them the information they need to make an informed choice.

The Crown Lager Social Golf Club has already been well received and this year will be a big one for those who have signed up, including special members-only days at courses including New South Wales Golf Club, Lake Karrinyup, Indooroopilly and Huntingdale Golf Club.

While we continue our work off course to get more people on course and playing, the tournament golf action continues with the Australian Amateur Championship this week at Woodlands as well as on the ALPG Tour leading into the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne Golf Club from February 9-12.

Joining the LPGA Tour for the first time, it’s a big year for the Women’s Australian Open and represents huge steps forward since the championship returned in 2007.

Much of the resurgence is due to the enormous support from Dr Haruhisa Handa who, through ISPS, has been the naming rights sponsor of the event for the past two years.

In 2012, the championship will have an Australian women’s golf record prize purse of US$1.1 million and be played over the renowned composite course at Royal Melbourne for the first time.

It will also be the first time any women’s professional event has been played on the composite course.

We anticipate a stunning field which will include around 40 of the top 50 players and 15 of the top 20 on the Rolex World Rankings.

World No.1 and defending champion Yani Tseng will return to defend her title and rookie star Lexi Thompson have already confirmed their places in the field.

Tseng had an extraordinary year in 2011 world golf by any standard. She won 11 times across four continents including two of the Majors.

At just 22 years of age, Tseng became the youngest player of either gender to win five Major championships.

That’s just a taste of the talent we have heading to Melbourne next month.