World number six Lydia Ko of New Zealand together with Major winner Minjee Lee of Australia will spearhead a stellar field when the Hana Financial Group Championship gets underway at the Adonis Country Club in Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do on Thursday.
The duo along with American Yealimi Noh and ‘Asian Prospects’ that include Singapore’s Shannon Tan, Malaysia’s Norezrina Alisa, Noraishah Alisa, and the Thai trio of Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong, Onkanok Soisuwan, and Jaravee Boonchant will also add an international flavor to the tournament which is back for its second edition.
The Hana Financial Group Championship offers a lucrative prize purse of KRW 1.5 billion (approximately US$1.2 million). It is part of the Ladies Asian Tour (LAT) Series, organised by the Asia Golf Leaders Forum, a non-profit organisation founded last year to help advance women’s golf in Asia,
A keen advocate of women’s golf, Ko said: “Women’s golf in Asia has been growing and growing over generations. We’ve had so many influential role models in the past, and as players, we are trying to make it a little bit better for our future generations too. Women’s golf in Asia is only going to keep becoming more popular and stronger.”
Ko has been enjoying a good run of form this year, winning the Lotte Championship in April along with securing eight top-10s so far. The 24-year-old also clinched the bronze medal at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Having won her first Major title in July, Lee is also grateful for the opportunity to showcase her talents at the Hana Financial Group Championship, which will be broadcast to a global audience from over 20 countries.
The world number 10 believes the appeal of women’s golf in Asia is getting stronger and is delighted to play her part in growing it further.
“Women’s golf in Asia is definitely bigger than anywhere else in the world, and I feel like it has at least equal appeal if not more appeal than the men’s golf in Asia which makes it a very special place for us to play.
“The young golfers coming through are amazing in terms of strength and depth, so I think Asian – and may I say Australasian players – are going to be doing great things on the Tour in the coming years!” said the 25-year-old Australian.
Noh, who made her Solheim Cup debut earlier this month, is delighted to be part of the international mix of players. She also makes her maiden appearance at the Hana Financial Group Championship this week.
“Women’s golf is truly an international game, and I’m lucky to be able to play every week next to players from all corners of the world. Its popularity in Asia will only grow, especially after the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. I’m confident the Hana Financial Group Championship can continue to highlight the best players from this region and grow the fanbase here,” said the American.
In line with the KLPGA’s “Vision 2028” and “Leap Towards Global No. 1 Tour” ambitions and as part of its ‘Asian Prospects’ campaign, Hana Financial Group is also extending its invitation to promising Asian young golfers from Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia to compete in the tournament.
This campaign will provide the new generation of emerging female golf stars with the opportunity to compete in an international tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has scuppered the sporting schedules of many international events in Asia.
Thailand’s Jaravee Boonchant is among the six ‘Asian Prospects’ who will be relishing the challenges of competing against a stellar field this week.
“I am very excited to play in the 2021 Hana Financial Group Championship. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t had a chance to go back to Asia after my graduation. So, I’m really looking forward to playing in Korea this week.
“Especially, this will be my first time playing as a professional outside of the U.S.,” said the 22-year-old Boonchant, who recently graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics.
The other players who were invited to the tournament include Singapore’s Shannon Tan, Malaysia’s Norezrine Alisa, and Noraishah Alisa, and Thailand’s Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong and Onkanok Soisuwan.
“Hana Financial Group is known to host one of the largest women’s golf events in Asia. This pandemic has been a great challenge for all. I never thought such an event will take place during this time. Therefore, I’m so amazed they have made it possible. Now that I have the opportunity to participate in this historic tournament, I’m just so excited and looking forward to teeing off,” said Noraishah Alisa.
The Hana Financial Group Championship will be held without spectators, and stringent COVID-19 management measures will be in place to ensure it remains safe for all involved.
About Hana Financial Group Championship
The tournament made its debut on the LPGA Tour in 2006 as the KEB Hana Bank Championship until 2018. It paved the way for KLPGA tour stars and past champions, including Na-yeon Choi (2009,2010), Amy Yang (2013), Kyu-jung Baek (2014), Jin-young Ko (2017), and In-gee Chun (2018), to advance their careers on the LPGA tour. In 2019, the tournament became part of the KLPGA schedule as its focus shifted to revitalizing women’s golf in Asia. Ha-na Jang became the tournament’s first champion that year. The Hana Financial Group Championship joined the Ladies Asian Tour series in 2020, where Na-rin An clinched the championship with a record winning total of eight-under-par 280. As a ‘major tournament in Asia’ that seeks to develop and revitalize Asian women’s golf, the Hana Financial Group Championship will be broadcast live throughout 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
About Hana Financial Group
Hana Financial Group has its roots in South Korea, founded in 1971 as Korea Investment & Finance Corporation, the country’s first finance company solely funded by private capital. Founded on principles of integrity and pioneering entrepreneurship, it has grown from two branches in Korea to over 840 branches in 24 countries across the globe – Korea’s largest overseas network – managing in excess of KRW 360 trillion in assets (as of December 2018). The Group envisions realizing a premier financial service network, to be a market leader with greater synergy among its subsidiaries in banking, securities, credit cards, capital, and insurance. The Group has set its sights on being the world’s most trusted premier financial group driven by customer experience. This move has seen substantial investments in China, Indonesia – where it is ranked in the top 20 banks – and Vietnam – where it now owns 15% of BIDV, the country’s largest lender – as it also moves into the fintech space.
For more information: http://www.hanafn.com
About Ladies Asian Tour Series
Ladies Asian Tour (LAT) Series is a group of ladies’ professional golf tournaments in Asia for Asian ladies’ golfers created by a coalition among sanctioning bodies in the region of Asia. The purpose of the Ladies Asian Tour (LAT) Series is to create Asian’s own series by not interfering with sanctioning bodies in this region but promote Ladies’ golf at a more competitive level in order to secure more fans on Ladies Asian Tour (LAT) series. Hana Financial Group Championship will be the second official event of Ladies Asian Tour Series 2021.
About Asia Golf Leaders Forum
Asia Golf Leaders Forum (AGLF) is a non-profit organization, led by four founders Mr. Jung-Tai Kim of Hana Financial Group, Mr. Gwang-Soo Hur of Korea Golf Association (KGA), Mr. Sang-Yeol Kim of Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA), and Mr. Kenny Park of Simone in 2020. With a mutual understanding with the R&A and golf associations in Asia such as Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, AGLF’s mission is to unite all the Asian golf associations and create synergies to boost Asian golf to a global arena. Together with corporate partners, AGLF is working to establish and grow Asian’s own series of women’s golf by co-developing with existing tournaments or establish new tournaments in countries across Asia. R&A has put its support behind AGLF and LAT for this new milestone in Asian Golf.