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25 Nov 2022 | Australian Open |

Could Vic Open success lead to ISPS HANDA Australian Open glory?

by Dane Heverin

Min Woo Lee during his Vic Open win in 2020.
Min Woo Lee during his Vic Open win in 2020.

Men, women and All Abilities golfers competing on the same course, at the same time, is not a new concept in Australian golf but the inclusive format will make its debut on a national stage at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open next week.

The mixed gender national Open will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world, but for the past decade men and women have graced the fairways together at the Vic Open, and All Abilities golfers were added to the event with the Victorian Inclusive Championship debuted in 2019.

13th Beach Golf Links has played host to the much revered event since 2013 and the honour roll at the Barwon Heads venue may provide valuable insight into which players will be among the contenders at Victoria and Kingston Heath golf clubs.

The Beach and Creek courses at 13th Beach possess elements of the Melbourne sandbelt which may be a good indicator of who will adapt to the conditions best, but the sharing of the spotlight and the strong crowds introduce a different element to mixed gender events.

When looking at who has handled those factors best, one surname stands out: Lee.

Minjee and Min Woo Lee are the best sibling act in Australian sport and they have both relished the chance to play alongside one another.

If Minjee winning her second major title at the US Women’s Open in June and taking out the Annika Award for the best player in the five women’s majors this year was not reason enough for her to be a red-hot favourite to claim her first national title, adding in her two Vic Open triumphs to the equation makes her all the more formidable.

The first of those wins came as an amateur in 2014 and the second in 2018 in a field that included major champion Hannah Green, World Golf Hall of Famer Dame Laura Davies and World No. 16 Xiyu Lin who will all be teeing it up in Melbourne.

Her little brother Min Woo meanwhile won the Vic Open in 2020 and that victory acted as a big boost to the now 24-year-old’s journey on the DP World Tour which included him playing in all four majors this year.

The stars are therefore aligning for a remarkable Lee double come Sunday but there are a host of other players looking to their 13th Beach success to spark their own title charges.

Hannah Green won the Vic Open in February and she has produced a very consistent season on the LPGA Tour without claiming a win which may mean she is due.

This year’s Vic Open men’s champion Dimitrios Papadatos could prove to be a dark horse as he has won at 13th Beach twice and clearly thrives in the inclusive format.

DP World Tour rankings runner-up Ryan Fox is among the favourites off the back of his career-best season, but to add to that he came runner-up at the Vic Open to Min Woo Lee in 2020.

Harrison Endycott is another with a second place finish at 13th Beach in 2018 and a victory would be a fantastic way for him to conclude a year that included securing his card on the PGA Tour.

For the golf lovers who have been involved with or followed closely the Vic Open’s decade at 13th Beach, it will come as no surprise if any of those well-credentialed golfers were to lift the Stonehaven Cup or the Patricia Bridges Bowl come Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless, those same people will be watching with immense pride knowing that the Vic Open pathed the way for golf’s inclusive nature to capture the national spotlight.

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