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Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Aussies are Coming to Town!

I've been checking the LPGA/Symetra web site daily for the last week, waiting for the Women's Health Charity Classic field to be announced.  Finally, it popped up last night and I got my first peek at the golfers who are going to tee off next week at The Links at Stoney Point.  We're in for a treat!

With a $200K purse (the biggest purse on the Symetra Tour), the Women's Health Charity Classic is linked to two other Tour events in the region -- the Friends of Mission Charity Classic in Asheville, NC and the Symetra Classic in Charlotte -- by a million dollar annuity waiting for the player who can win all three events.  All this money's attracting the top players on the Tour.  The golf fan is smiling.  The golf blogger is smiling.

I'll spend the next few days profiling the field, and I'll start with a trio of Aussie golfers I've been following for the past two years.  I'm utterly confident this trio will bring their A games to Stoney Point next week!

Rebecca Artis, at 2013 Lacosta Ladies Open de France
Rebecca Artis has been playing primarily on the Ladies European Tour (LET) since 2010 and the 26-year old Aussie has compiled a solid record over her 3 year LET career: 6 top-10 finishes and her first pro win, which came at the Helsingborg Open in 2013.

Artis has already played 4 LET events and 3 Symetra events in the 2014 season.  Currently ranked 28th on the LET Order of Merit and 171st on the world-wide Rolex Rankings, Artis intends to play her way onto the LPGA via the Symetra Tour and she has a solid game and the talent it takes to do that.

Stacey Keating, at 2013 Lacosta Ladies Open de France
Stacey Keating, like Rebecca Artis, started playing on the LET in 2010 and the 28-year old is in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.  Keating has 11 top-10 finishes on the LET and 2 victories, both in 2013, at the Tenerife Open de EspaƱa Femenino and the Lacosta Ladies Open de France.  

Keating's played 5 LET events and 2 LPGA events this year and although she's had some trouble making the cut and playing the weekend, she has a fine game and is probably just going through a mental adjustment to the shift between the European to American venues.  Keating's ranked 25th on the LET Order of Merit and 163rd in the world rankings.

Sarah Kemp in action
Sarah Kemp began her pro career in 2006 on the Australian pro tour, the ALPG, then qualified for both the LET and the LPGA Tour in 2007.  Over the next seven years she recorded 16 top-10 LET finishes and 2 top-10s on the LPGA.

Last year Kemp made the cut in 7 LPGA events and her best finish was a tie for 17th at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.  She's played 4 LET and 3 LPGA events in 2014 and although Kemp's still hunting her first pro victory she's ranked 17th on the LET Order of Merit, above both Artis and Keating, but 215th in the world rankings.

Largely fueled by Hall of Famer and 2-time 2014 LPGA winner Karrie Webb's influence and very active mentoring, Australia supports a pro tour for women golfers, the ALPG, grows the game in Australia with an active youth program -- Minjee Lee is the most recent product -- and produces very competitive pro golfers on the world stage.  Artis, Keating and Kemp are all products of that national commitment to nurturing young women athletes and I'm looking forward to watching this trio in action next week as they navigate a course I enjoy playing myself and always find tremendously challenging.