21 Jul 2022

Growing the game – How the DP World Tour became the frontrunners

Sunday, 12 June will go down as one of the most historic day’s in golf history after Linn Grant became the first female winner of a DP World Tour event with an emphatic victory at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed.

When the co-sanctioned tournament was first announced in 2019 it championed the DP World Tour’s commitment for inclusivity in golf – this was a world first, ground-breaking tournament which pitted the DP World Tour members and leading players on the Ladies European Tour against each other, competing in the same groups for one trophy and one prize-fund.

Jonathan Caldwell walked away with the trophy in the inaugural event, dashing the hopes of a fairytale win for one the LET members, but Caldwell had his own special story having lost his playing privileges in 2009 before turning to the Challenge Tour and EuroPro Tour, while working in a local golf shop until he made it back to the DP World Tour through Qualifying School in 2019, a decade after losing his card.

The tournament returned last month for the second year running and with a prize-fund of US$2million – double that of the previous year. Once again people held high hopes for the women to make history…and boy, did a certain Linn Grant deliver.

The sweet-swinging 22-year-old turned a two-stroke 54-hole lead into a runaway nine-stroke victory with a stunning closing 64 that belied the pressure of being stalked by a famous compatriot with Major credentials.

In the end, Henrik Stenson, co-host with Annika Sörenstam, played little more than a bit-part on the final day at Halmstad Golf Club. A 70 saw the 2016 Open Champion finish joint runner-up with Marc Warren after the Scot waltzed up the final leaderboard with a 65.

But this was Grant’s historic moment, a €319,716 payday further sweetening her warp-speed rise to stardom after the Swede turned professional in August last year.

With her boyfriend, Pontus, on her bag, it was a third title in just Grant’s sixth start on the LET and her second in successive events. There have also been a pair of victories on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and a maiden pro breakthrough on the second-tier LET Access.

She’s recorded eight successive rounds in the 60s in winning the past two LET events and was impressively the only player to go bogey-free during the final 36 holes in Tylösand.

“I hope this victory is big,” said Grant after adding her historic home victory to LET wins at the Joburg Ladies Open and Mithra Belgian Ladies Open.

“I hope it brings women more forward and it gets people’s eyes on us a little bit more. It is always nice to say that you beat the guys for a week. To be able to speak Swedish and hear everyone out there cheering for you, it was amazing.”

Asked if she was doubly determined to beat the men from the DP World Tour, Grant didn’t leave any doubt.

“For sure – the most important thing,” she said.

“It’s a nice feeling. All week I just felt like it’s the girls against the guys and whoever picks up that trophy represents the field.”

“I just hope that people recognise women’s golf, more sponsors go to the LET and hopefully this pumps up the women’s game a little bit more.”

It was an exciting time to be part of the game – history was being made in front of our very eyes and it built on the DP World’s title partnership promise to help enhance the ‘continued collaboration with the women’s game’.

Continued collaboration

That continued collaboration will once again be on show to the watching world when the ISPS HANDA World Invitational brings together some of the best players in the men’s and women’s game with two tournaments – a DP World Tour event and a co-sanctioned LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour event – played concurrently over two courses in Northern Ireland from August 11-14.

Unlike the Scandinavian Mixed, the women and men will not play together but they will both be playing for the same prize money – US$1.5million – when the event returns to Country Antrim. Held for the first time last year as a DP World Tour event, having been elevated from Challenge Tour status, the tri-sanction agreement heralded an exciting new chapter for the tournament, which was the first of its kind in the northern hemisphere.

“I’m really looking forward to returning to County Antrim later this year,” said Niall Horan, owner of Modest! Golf Management, who will play in the Pro-Am. “It’s no secret that I love golf and all of us at Modest! are proud to have the opportunity to work with the DP World Tour, the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour along with title sponsor ISPS HANDA once again for this event.

“It was great fun last year and it was great to see men and women playing on the golf course at the same time and for equal prize money.”

Maguire’s homecoming

The tournament will also welcome home Irish superstar Leona Maguire, who will play in front of her home fans for the first time since making history as the first ever Irish winner on the LPGA Tour. The 27-year-old became the first Irish player to win on the LPGA Tour earlier this year, claiming a three-stroke victory over Lexi Thompson at the LPGA Drive On Championship and sparking celebrations across the island of Ireland.

Maguire, who also put in a starring performance in Europe’s Solheim Cup victory last year where she won 4.5 points from a possible five, is sure to receive a rapturous welcome when she returns to Galgorm and Massereene from August 11-14.

“I’m really excited to return to the ISPS HANDA World Invitational,” said Maguire. “I was disappointed I couldn’t make it last year, but I watched it on TV and it looked like a fantastic week, and I heard great things from the players who were there.

“It’s been an incredible six months for me and I’ve received so much support from home since winning on the LPGA Tour, so to go back and play in front of the Irish fans for the first time at Galgorm and Massereene is going to be incredible. I can’t wait.”

G4D Tour

As well as hosting the stars of the DP World Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour, the tournament will also welcome the incredible athletes of G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour, which brings together the world’s best golfers with disabilities.

The Golf for Disabled initiative was first launched at the 2019 Betfred British Masters at Hillside Golf Club with the European Tour group and EDGA commiting to holding events on the same golf course during the weeks of DP World Tour events for leading golfers from the gross World Ranking for golfers with a disability (WR4GD).

Prior to this year, seven events had already been held, with players from 15 countries on five continents competing, before the DP World Tour launched the newly named G4D Tour in February this year.

The new look G4D Tour, which has already visited the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett, Porsche European Open and Horizon Irish Open this year, provides a transformational package of financial, commercial and media support for the European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) with seven events across the season.

The financial support package, through the European Tour group’s Golf for Good initiative, has also EDGA move from a volunteer led organisation to a semi-professional one. The enhanced support is part of the pledge to drive positive community impact made by the European Tour group and DP World last November at the launch of the newly named Tour.

The G4D @ ISPS HANDA World Invitational will once again showcase the incredible capabilities of these athletes with stars such as last year’s champion Brendan Lawlor and Kipp Popert, who won the first events this season, competing as they bid to secure their sport in G4D Dubai Finale. That will be held ahead of the final Rolex Series event of 2022, the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, where the qualifiers from the previous six events will battle it out at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 14-15.

This is how you grow the game

A lot has been said over the last few months of golfers playing in a new league to apparently ‘grow the game’, but no one grows it as much as the DP World Tour. Where else in the world do women and men compete for one trophy and one prize fund? Where can disabled golfers play in a tournament that has the same course set up as a Rolex Series event just days before DP World Tour Rankings champion, Collin Morikawa, wins one of the most lucrative tournaments in golf?

They don’t get everything right, the Golf Sixes wasn’t the greatest while the Shot Clock Masters didn’t have the desired impact. But they’re constantly looking at fun and innovative ideas to attract a new audience to golf. That’s how you grow the game.

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