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Royal on par for Open upgrade

Golf Australia will lengthen the Royal Canberra layout in an attempt to make the course more challenging for the best in the world at next year's Women's Australian Open.

Organisers hope to attract at least 3000 spectators each day to the tournament which is part of the Canberra Centenary celebrations.

The dress rehearsal for the Open finished yesterday when Karen Lunn won the third Royal Canberra Ladies Classic by four shots.

The tournament and course will both get a complete makeover next year with prizemoney increased from $130,000 to more than $1million, should the Australian Open be retained as part of the US LPGA tour.

While there is no set date for the Australian Open at Royal Canberra, it is expected to be played in February.

Golf Australia director of tournaments Trevor Herden and his team will arrive six weeks before the opening round to build grandstands on the course, prepare suitable sites for television coverage and increase the course distance to 6000m.


Royal Canberra is 5891m, but Herden wants to increase that to add more challenges for some of the world's top-ranked female golfers.

''This course is challenging and it's exciting to come to Canberra and it will be great to be a part of the ACT centenary celebrations,'' Herden said.

''With the distance we'll aim for 6000m, the course is different to somewhere like Royal Melbourne [where this year's Australian Open will be], but it is still tough.

''If you're off the fairways, you're in trouble here [Royal Canberra].

''This club has been a great supporter of amateur and professional golf and it's justice they get further recognition with the 2013 Australian Open being played here.''

Herden said the Ladies Classic had provided the perfect grounding to attract big crowds to the Australian Open.

Tournament director Mark Brooker was confident the tournament and course could easily accommodate the changes required to host the Australian Open.

''From what we hear from the ALPG that we have been doing a pretty good job and they don't believe that there will be much changed at all.

''They might make a few minor changes but I don't believe they will make many major changes.''

Brooker said 8000 people attended the event including 4000 yesterday, the highest in tournament history.

''The crowds have been good and we have been happy with the way it has all gone,'' Brooker said. ''The tournament [Ladies Classic] has gone very well and we have been very lucky with the weather in particular.''

ActewAGL has been the major sponsor of the tournament since its start three years ago and chief executive Michael Costello indicated the company would continue its support if the Ladies Classic resumed in 2014.

''It is up to the [Royal Canberra Golf] club. We will be very happy to join them if the club wants to do it [the tournament] and we think it would be a great thing,'' Costello said.

The Australian Open will be part of the US LPGA schedule for the first time when it is played at Royal Melbourne Golf Club next month.