08 Feb 2022 | Professional golf |
Green sets sights on Vic Open trophy
by Martin Blake
Hannah Green has had three months away from tournament golf but she has set herself the target of winning the Vic Open first up this week at 13th Beach.
Green who is the highest-ranked woman in the field on the Bellarine Peninsula this week, completed her LPGA Tour season in America last November, and her intention to play in the inaugural WPGA Championship at Royal Queensland last month was ruined by Western Australia’s border closures.
So while she knows that she could be rusty when the tournament starts on Thursday, she is also the marquee player on the women’s side. The big billboards along the driveway at 13th Beach Golf Links depicting her and Geoff Ogilvy attest to that.
It’s not a familiar feeling, but she does not mind. “It’s a very cool feeling,” the 25-year-old said today. “I drove in Sunday night, was dropping off a friend who’s staying here at the resort and saw it. To be next to Geoff who obviously does a lot for the game here in Australia is pretty cool.”
Green, the world No. 30 and one of just four Australian women to have won a major championship, embraces the added pressure. “I think it’s just part of it,” she said. “It’s really nice just to play a golf tournament in Australia. Unfortunately due to borders I wasn’t able to play in the events last year. So it’s been a couple of years since I’ve played on home soil and I love playing, love the experience, love having the pressure but also have everyone barracking for me as well. So it’s really nice to come back and see so many familiar faces and some new faces. I’m really excited, hopefully not too rusty.”
There’s no equivocation of her target for this week. With the LPGA Tour co-sanction not in place this year, the field is thinner. “I want to win it. It’s my first event of the year but I don’t see why I can’t. Obviously there’s a few players who are probably going to be up there as well coming in Sunday. I feel my goal is to win some events and I don’t see why I can’t have my hands on a Vic Open trophy.’’
One of her main rivals also happens to be her closest friend in golf, Victorian Su Oh who is flying back in from America to play. Oh won the WPGA Championship in Green’s absence last month, and the Western Australia had not even a pang of jealousy watching at home. “Maybe if I was playing the event?’’ she said. “I was so happy for her, I knew she was going to do well that week. I wish I was actually there to celebrate in person but I’ll be seeing her this afternoon.
“She’s been with me the two times I’ve won on LPGA. It’d be nice for me to return the favour so hopefully we have good LPGA seasons.”
Green has longer-term aims, too. After playing here and the TPS Murray River event in Cobram-Barooga next week, she heads to Singapore to pick up the LPGA Tour. World ranking is a focus, having slid a little recently with inactivity. Her best ranking was 13th.
“I’d love to be in the top 10 in the world come the end of the year,” she said. “Obviously to do that I’ve got to win events. I’m banking on myself to play well. I’ve had a really good pre-season and I just want to go out there and play. When the LPGA started a few weeks ago I was really itching to get out there and even when my friend Su (Oh) won, I was so excited for her, but I do miss it a lot. I feel like I’m in the best physical state and mental state and I’m just looking forward to 2022.’’
Green spent a month away from her clubs in Perth but resumed practice with coach Ritchie Smith a month ago. “I needed the recharge. I’d been on the road for five months away from being home. Every time I’m in Perth time goes so quickly. Put the sticks away for a month and then got back into it and felt really recharged and motivated to get back into it.”
She was aware of statistics announced today confirming the golf boom in Australia, with a 21 percent participation rise in the 2020-21 figures.
“Even when golf courses closed briefly in Western Australia, trying to get a tee time as soon as they did (open) it was really difficult,” she said. “Tee sheets were filling up in five minutes. Even for myself, it was hard to get a tee time.
“Covid’s been a couple of years and I don’t think that’s changed. People are just loving golf and I feel like it’s more inclusive as well. Everyone’s trying to play. Wembley golf course back at home, everyone’s trying to get on the driving range so it’s not only just playing, it’s hitting balls and playing mini-golf. It’s great to see. That’s what we want as professional golfers is to see more people in the sport so it’s great to hear some stats that it’s actually happening.”
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