HSBC event banks on new draws

HSBC event banks on new draws
Park In Bee (left) and Lydia Ko (right), who together have had a field day in winning tournaments and accolades this year, welcomed the move by the organisers of the HSBC Women's Champions to inject more excitement and also reach out to those who may not be avid golf enthusiasts.

Between them, Lydia Ko and Park In Bee dominated women's golf in 2015 and the pair will resume their rivalry at next year's HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore.

The duo, ranked first and second in the world respectively, will headline the March 3-6 tournament at the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC).

Both won five LPGA Tour titles this season, including three of the five Majors, and swept the bulk of the year-end awards.

Ko, 18, is the youngest world No. 1 and finished runner-up to Park at the SGC's Serapong Course earlier this year, a position she hopes to improve in three months' time.

She said: "I have been playing well and hope I can get on the champions list this time round."

Joining them at the US$1.5 million (S$2.1 million) tournament, which regularly attracts a world-class 63-woman field, will be 2014 champion Paula Creamer.

The ninth edition of the Women's Champions will also see three new faces added to the stellar line-up, albeit outside the ropes.

British three-man pop band Take That will host a concert on March 5. The outdoor ticketed gig will be held on a custom-built stage at the SGC's driving range and can accommodate about 5,000 spectators.

Besides the concert, acclaimed electronic dance music artist Jack Novak will also be performing while a food village - headed by an internationally renowned celebrity chef - will be set up on site.

Last month, British bank HSBC extended its title sponsorship of the 72-hole tournament for another three years and increased the overall prize money by US$100,000.

This year's Women's Champions drew a record 29,038 fans, the biggest crowd in eight stagings.

But with a host of world-class events held in the Republic, organisers are taking nothing for granted as they bid to bring in more fans.

The inclusion of music and food adds to the lifestyle element during the four-day competition and will enhance the visitor experience, said IMG Asia Pacific senior vice-president Robbie Henchman.

"What this does for us is to hopefully bring in a new breed of fans who don't necessarily follow golf but will come to experience the concert and thereby enjoy and expose themselves to the golf as well," he said. "It's trying to widen the audience to a more general appeal."

The move has already received the thumbs up from players.

Said seven-time Major winner Park: "The festival sounds like a great move and is definitely the right way forward for the game."

Added Ko: "With the likes of Take That and Jack Novak entertaining the fans and players, 2016 will be the best yet."

This article was first published on December 16, 2015.
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