Royal Canberra Classic secures major player coup to boost tournament
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Royal Canberra Classic secures major player coup to boost tournament

Royal Canberra Classic organisers have secured a major player coup as they push for a permanent tournament in the capital, signing defending champion Jiyai Shin to give the event some extra star power.

Fairfax Media can reveal Shin told officials on Wednesday night she wanted to chase another title in Canberra, with players from more than 30 different countries expected to join her from March 1-3.

What a champion! Canberra Classic winner Jiyai Shin will donated her prizemoney at this year's tournament to help young golfers.

What a champion! Canberra Classic winner Jiyai Shin will donated her prizemoney at this year's tournament to help young golfers.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

The Australian Ladies Professional Golf launched the Canberra Classic on Thursday, recruiting players from the WNBL, W-League, Super W and AFLW competitions to showcase women's sport in the city.

But organisers hope a strong player turnout and growing interest in the three-day event will convince the ACT government and Royal Canberra to make it an annual tournament.

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Former Canberra professional Nikki Campbell threw her support behind the tournament's future at the launch and hoped the capital would again host the Australian Open in the coming years.

Queanbeyan will host the women's NSW Open a week after the Canberra Classic, and Royal Canberra is also keen to host the Australian Open when the tournament's deal with Adelaide expires in 2021.

Shin, the world No. 26, has developed a special affinity with the Royal Canberra. She won the Australian Open at the course in 2013 and returned to claim the Canberra Classic earlier this year.

"Scheduling is tough for this tournament and to have Jiyai coming back - it's massive," said tournament director Lee Harrington.

"She's won three times this year, she's second on the money list in Japan and the leading player in the world outside of the American tour.

"So it really is massive. I don't think we get it in Australia, but she really is a superstar. We're lucky to have her wanting to come here and play in the event and that's a testament to Canberra and the course.

The Canberra Capitals, Brumbies, Canberra United and GWS Giants helped launch the Canberra Classic.

The Canberra Capitals, Brumbies, Canberra United and GWS Giants helped launch the Canberra Classic.Credit:Lawrence Atkin

"It's never an easy juggle with scheduling this tournament and prizemoney always dictates, which is why we need to build this event more."

The ALPG has secured a $150,000 prize pool after finalising a deal with ActewAGL as the tournament's major sponsor. Golfing legend Laura Davies is another confirmed starter and a host of European players are expected to enter.

The Solheim Cup, a biennial tournament between Europe and the United States, will be played in 2019 and the Canberra Classic will count towards ranking points.

The Canberra Classic started in 2012 as a precursor to the Australian Open 12 months later, but the event didn't make a return until this year.

It is hoped its return will help pave the way from the Australian Open to return in 2022 or beyond.

"I think we're committed, so are Royal Canberra and ActewAGL, but we only have a year-by-year contract. But we want to build this event and we've got to try to increase the pizemoney," Harrington said.

Campbell, who won three times in her career and played at the US and British Opens, added: "It's nice that Royal Canberra, and Canberra in general, get behind women's golf.

"It's a pity I'm not playing any more. It's great the tournament is back, hopefully it can keep building and maybe having the Australian Open back here again.

"The course is fabulous, the sponsors are great ... it would be great if they could have another Australian Open here. When I was playing, the players raved about [Royal Canberra]. As a golfer, it's a perfect place to come."