Crowds enhance status of Royal Canberra
Large galleries followed Jiyai Shin at Royal Canberra. Photo: Melissa Adams
Royal Canberra's hopes of hosting more big events has received a massive boost, with a review expected to confirm last week's Women's Australian Open drew bigger crowds than last year's tournament in Melbourne.
While official figures are yet to be released, the tournament director, Trevor Herden, anticipates a significant increase to the galleries which watched Jessica Korda win a six-way playoff at Royal Melbourne last year.
''I can tell you it looks likes it's up about 30 per cent on what it was last year, that's pretty impressive,'' Herden said. ''[Last year] I think we had in excess of 20,000, that's for the week.
''We were really excited on two fronts. One that it exceeded our expectations and two, the interest in the event on the back of what happened last week has been quite remarkable.''
The ACT government provided funding to help lure the tournament to Canberra as part of the city's centenary celebrations.
While Canberra has a far smaller population than Melbourne, the novelty factor, plus superb weather, ensured fans flocked to see some of the world's best players.
Herden said the support the event received will keep Royal Canberra in the frame as a possible contender to host again. The club is considering whether to redevelop its layout. If it proceeds, work isn't expected to begin in the immediate future.
Melbourne is contracted to host the event over the next two years, with first Victoria Golf Club and then Royal Melbourne Golf Club (2015) the likely venues.
''I would say we would certainly consider coming back there [to Royal Canberra] if everyone wanted us to, that's up for some other people to consider,'' Herden said.
''I would think the ACT government would be delighted to have it back if ever the opportunity came up again.
''They're possibly going to undertake some work at the club and when everything's settled down, who knows what will happen.''
Royal Canberra's general manager, Andrew Casey, says discussions on whether the course will undergo redevelopment are only in the preliminary stages.
If redevelopment does proceeds, Casey insisted it wouldn't end the club's short-term chances of hosting big tournaments.
''I wouldn't say that, because we have 27 holes, we have flexibility,'' Casey said. ''Whether it's a composite course, or one group of nine [holes] is having work done, there's still 18 holes to be played.
''It'd come down to the members, and what they thought the benefits were of holding it [again]. Definitely it's given the club some state, national and international exposure.''
Casey said the potential redevelopment could take up to two or three years, depending on the extent of the changes.
''There's a plan in place, but it still needs a lot of work and finessing before we proceed with anything.''
Nine of the world's top 20-ranked golfers played in the event, with the world No. 8, Jiyai Shin, edging out 15-year-old sensation Lydia Ko.
Ko said Royal Canberra was more than capable of hosting the event again.
''Yeah, I think so … it's definitely a capable course, and definitely a deserving course.''