VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Five female golfers will compete in a men’s European Tour event in May as part of more innovations to the GolfSixes tournament.
Suzann Pettersen and Mel Reid will form a European Women’s team and Georgia Hall and Charley Hull will combine for an England Women’s team in the six-hole match-play tournament at Centurion Club, England, on May 5-6.
In another team, Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn will join forces with Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew.
“It is hugely important to try and break down the barriers that have existed in golf between the men’s and women’s games,” Bjorn said.
The female players will play off forward tees.
It is not the first time women have been included in a European Tour field, however.
American golfer Michelle Wie played in the European Masters in 2006, missing the cut at 15 over. From 1988-91, the Benson and Hedges Trophy was a mixed strokeplay event on the tour.
It was announced last year that Laura Davies will play in The Shipco Masters on the European Seniors Tour in Denmark in June.
The move to include women in GolfSixes has the full backing of the European Tour’s all-male tournament committee, said Keith Pelley, the tour chief executive.
There will be a fourth “wild card” team, which will be revealed next month, to play alongside the 11 men’s national teams who will qualify automatically from the European Tour ranking list. Denmark pair Lucas Bjerregaard and Thorbjorn Olesen are the defending champions.
Teams will be split into four groups of four, with the top two in each advancing to the knockout stage. Both players tee off before choosing the better of the two drives and completing each hole with one ball, hitting alternately. There will be a 40-second shot clock in play.
“All tours are trying to think of ways to make golf different and encourage a new and younger audience,” Matthew said, “and so I think this whole concept is very exciting.”
The European Tour said data from the inaugural GolfSixes last year showed a 42 percent increase in new golf fans at the event compared to regular European Tour events. Those attendees were also 14 percent younger than those seen during the rest of the golfing calendar.