Top names to battle for Victorian Open title

The Victorian Open Golf Championships gets underway on Thursday at 13th Beach Golf Links on the picturesque Bellarine Peninisula just south of Geelong.

For the second year in a row the women’s and men’s championship will be held simultaneously – a format unique to this event.

Cameron Smith Cameron Smith (Credit: Anthony Powter)

The tournament schedules will see the women play the North Course in the first two rounds while the men vie for the cut on the Beach course. The last 50 players in each tournament will join on the Beach course for the weekend – men and women will tee off alternately.

Local and State governments have got behind the combined championships to create a more attractive spectator and media event. The prize pool for each field is equal- $150,000.

The roll call of past winners for both championships is synonymous with Australia’s golfing greats. So who will join this roll call in 2013?

Coming off strong performances in the Australian Women’s Open are Sarah Jane Smith and Rebecca Artis. Vicky Thomas, a Member of 13th Beach Club and currently ranked 6th on the OOM, will have a home course advantage.

Karen Lunn, and Sarah Kemp from NSW as well as Victorian Stacey Keating should all be in contention. Absent from the field are leading amateurs Lydia Ko and Minjee Lee.

The start of the men’s Asian Tour sees a number of professionals in Myanmar next week for the first tournament of the year. But the field is still enticing. New Zealander Mark Brown set a course record at Kingston Heath last month to gain his place in the British Open.

Daniel Popovic will be looking to regain the winning form he showed at Coolum following a disappointing performance at the Queensland PGA where he missed the cut.

Top ten Order of Merit finisher in 2012 Gareth Paddison starts after showing some good form at the Queensland PGA. Also flying in from a strong performance in Queensland is Anthony Summers. Tournament invite Kiwi Phil Tataurangi continues his comeback and can count on his experience if the wind gets up.

Tour rookies, Dan Nisbet and Dimi Papadatos, will be looking to consolidate their position on the tour. Nisbet has made the cut in his first three professional outings since January.

Perhaps the keenest interest will be in the top performing amateurs.

Cameron Smith, has been in contention in both professional and amateur tournaments this season, winning the Australian Amateur last month.

Brady Watt top ranking world amateur, has now joined the National Squad, and is coming in off the back of a string of top ten finishes and success in South Africa with Australia’s winning team in the Ten Nations cup.

The 13th Beach Golf Links will provide a spectacular backdrop to the tournament. The Beach Course, designed by the long established firm of Tony Cashmore, opened in 2001 and is already ranked in the top ten of public access courses.

In 2004 the North Course was added with Sir Nick Faldo having a hand in the design along with Cashmore who also created the Dunes Golf Links on the Mornington Peninsula.