On the 21st to the 24th of May, the Inaugural Women’s International Pro-Am Tournament was held in the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. It was an esteemed event for pro and amateurs golfers – a celebration of female golf in a luxurious setting.
In partnership with the Australian Ladies Professional Golfers (ALPG), the two-round tournament was hosted at the recently opened Sheraton Deva Spa & Golf Resort. Other than being the first female pro-am tournament held internationally, the event was iconic for its lavish location. Regardless of golfing ability, everyone could appreciate the backdrop of the golf course – mountainous ranges, a secluded 13km stretch of beach and the South Pacific grandeur of the resort.
The pro golfers joined the amateurs on the green for 18 holes each day. It was an all-star line-up of pros; with Australian Sarah Kemp and Victoria Fricot joining Kiwi Phillis Meti as the event’s official ambassadors. Whether pro or amateur, all the participants were extremely friendly and happy to have a chat between holes. I even got to practice my swing at the driving range with the teams before tee off each morning.
After the first day of competition, I got the chance to chat with Sarah Kemp who is competing in the US Open this year.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about how you got into golf?
A: “I started when I was 12, just through my parents. They both played. Dad played on the weekends and I just followed him to the golf course and got little cut-down clubs. And I’m now 32, so 20 years.”
Q: What do you love most about the game?
A: “I’m quite competitive so I love the whole competing aspect of it. I love travelling so I get to travel the world. I met new people. But being out on the golf course and in that competitive mode is so much fun.”
Q: Have you got a favourite golf course in the world or country that you’ve played in?
A: “Oh gosh, I’m pretty bias. I do so much travelling, I love it, but I have to say my favourite place is home, Australia.”
Q: I notice you have some fluffy toys covering some of your bigger clubs. What’s that about?
A: “On the longer clubs you put a head cover on them and basically you can pick whatever you want. So I use a toy kangaroo because I’m overseas so much and it’s a bit of hit in the States.”
Q: What do you think of the resort so far?
A: “It’s pretty awesome. I’m hopefully going get a massage this afternoon. I’m just enjoying relaxing and being in the spa will be awesome. But the bungalow atmosphere is so cool, I love that.”
The winners of the tournament were announced at a glitzy poolside party. There were multiple winners for different categories with pro Breanna Gill crowned the overall winner, followed closely by Vicky Uwland and Sarah Kemp. Young local amateur Emily Rcaud was also a key player, working her way towards the PRO rankings.
Looking for a bit of insight into the organisation behind the event, I sat down with Jennifer Lee, Director of Sales and Marketing for the New Caledonia Complex (incl. Sheraton).
Q: Why did the Sheraton Deva choose to partner with the ALPG for the golfing tournament?
A: “The whole objective is to develop golf holidays and golf stays for the Sheraton in New Caledonia…Whilst the majority of the amateurs participating this year are locals, the long-term objective is to draw in more of an international participation as well. So that someone can plan their holiday around it, so mum or whoever is a keen amateur player – why not spend in a week in New Caledonia, play golf for three days with some pros, enjoy the resort and enjoy the destination.”
Q: Why then have you chosen the pro ladies international tournament for this hotel?
A: “It’s a very timely moment to be having a women’s event. We wanted to generate as much participation as possible.”
Q: What gives the Sheraton Deva its edge?
A: “We are the only resort in New Caledonia that has a golf course attached to it, and it is by far the best golf course of the four in New Caledonia as well. So it is definitely a key advantage that we have.”
Q: What about for those guests who aren’t as interested in golf?
A: “One thing that we do have that other properties don’t have is a full-fledged kids club. It’s a unique selling feature that we have for families…There’s hiking trails, biking, horseback riding, there’s a zip line that’s being developed in the area. Here we have the Deep Nature Spa, the bars, the pool…there’s quite a lot to do here.”
From being immersed in the tournament atmosphere and staying at the luxurious hotel, the event was an extreme success for everyone involved and managed to maintain a clever balance of work and play. I got a lesson in golf from the best of the best, was treated to New Caledonian hospitality and culture whilst still being able to soak up all the perks of the picturesque scenery and luxury resort. (Bonus: I also got to drive a golf buggy.) Throw in a few cocktail parties and the tournament was a great way to play a bit of golf whilst still enjoying the atmosphere of an island holiday.