Thank you Bonville

The Australian Ladies Classic marked the return of professional golf at Bonville Resort. In this chat with Golf NSW, Bonville’s Chairman Peter Montgomery describes his joy at seeing this magnificent course back in the public eye – where it belongs.

Peter, Bonville has just finished staging this inaugural women’s LET event. What’s your assessment of it?

I’m absolutely thrilled. The team here has done an outstanding job, particularly Brad Daymond the General Manager and Chris Neal as Course Superintendent, and Aaron Banks his deputy. They’ve done an outstanding job. They’ve put in extremely long hours. Most nights they’ve been out on the course with floodlights, mowing and doing things at 9pm and going again at 4.30am. It’s been an amazing effort and I’m delighted with the way they’ve presented this event.

Green staff work hard to get the course back into tournament condition on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

We’ve seen some spectacular golf, but this course is something else isn’t it?

It is. It was quite a feat when it was constructed, to carve through this forest a beautiful golf course with all the undulations and spectacular visual scenery.

The history of the course is very interesting because it was a plantation forest. It wasn’t a natural rainforest. It was going to be cut down and used for paper pulp. A very enterprising entrepreneur got the idea to create a golf course through it. I suspect it would be very difficult to get these approvals today, even though it was a plantation forest. It abuts the state forest where there is whole-growth forest of these beautiful flooded gumtrees.

The tournament was well supported by passionate golf fans. PIcture: Tristan Jones | LET

Everything seems to grow beautifully up here.

It’s apparently because the mountains come in close to the coastline here. That’s why Coffs Harbour was one of the banana-growing centres of Australia and is now one of the main centres for blueberry growing. It has that atmosphere even though it is roughly halfway between the Gold Coast and Sydney. The other banana-growing capital was way up north in Tully. The temperature here doesn’t get too cold, and it doesn’t get stinking hot like it does up north. And the humidity usually isn’t too bad.

Everything is green as Celine Boutier plays a shot during her final round. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

You’ve had great professional and personal success, where does this event reside in terms of its importance to you?

I’m very pleased for the team at Bonville that they’ve been able to see this event being held here at a place where they work day in day out.

It is a big site. A normal 18-hole golf course with clubhouse is approximately 120 acres. At Bonville we have the luxury of having our golf course spread out over 450 acres. Hence, you get the effect on each hole that you are completely separated from the rest of the course. You can play a game of golf here and hardly see anyone the whole way around – except for people who are in your group.

Koala- spotting was popular with both golfers and the galleries throughout the week. PIcture: Tristan Jones | LET

As a destination for golfers, Bonville rates right up there. Was that the plan?

The reason why Bonville does well in comparative terms to many other golf courses is because of that visitation by groups. We’ve had groups coming since the course opened 26 years ago. And they religiously come in groups and play for trophies we keep in our trophy cabinet up there, and it’s one of the highlights of their year.

They vary from young groups, father and son groups, business groups. Companies bring clients here in a group-like format and to develop new clients. We also have a lot of weddings here in our function centres upstairs.

The magnificent Bonville setting makes it popular for weddings and conferences as well as golf groups. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

What is the club’s ambition when it comes to professional golf and its association with the sport?

We’d like to expand it. It’s expensive in a sense in that we lose revenue for that week, in accommodation and green fees, so it’s a significant expense. But it’s also helping let people in the Australian community and overseas understand that there is a very fine golf course here in Coffs Harbour.

Coffs Harbour itself has many virtues in the sense of being close to Sydney and Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It has beautiful surf beaches, it has rainforest, they have some very fine restaurants, they have outstanding fishing. In fact, Coffs Harbour once held the world record for blue marlin.

Professional golf is here to stay at Bonville.

There’s also the northern and southern currents that intersect at Coffs Harbour. It’s like a mini Barrier Reef.

There’s many things to do here, there’s white water rafting. In recent years the airport has been substantially upgraded and there are many flights a day; direct flights from Melbourne, direct flights with Qantas and Virgin.

But coming back to your question and our involvement in the expansion of professional tournaments here, we’d love it to happen. As they say crudely in some occasions, we’re open for business.

The golf is awesome, but there are many other attractions to Coffs Harbour. Picture: Tristan Jones | LET

Bonville will at the very least host this event for the next four years.

Yes, there’s a five-plus-five agreement. If we are all happy at the end of five years, both sides, we’ll go forward. Hopefully, we’ll be sitting in here in 10 years time talking about whether we’ll go again.

 

This event was put together very quickly. Were you concerned about the timeframe?

It was very quick and we were a bit nervous about whether it was possible to respond in time. We provided the venue and a lot of assistance by our staff, but the background operation of putting it together by Golf NSW, the Australian Ladies Professional Golf, and the Ladies European Tour – that has been outstanding.

Bonville Chairman Peter Montgomery, left, with Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser, West Australian golfer Hannah Green, and His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley, Governor of NSW.

We’re very pleased with the way everyone has co-operated together and brought it together in such a very short time. We’ll debrief afterwards to see how we can make it better next year.

 

They do refer to this course as Australia’s Augusta. Was that deliberate in its construction?

The 17th is very similar to the 12th at Augusta. It’s a similar length, it has an elevated tee. We don’t quite have the swirling winds they have at Augusta, but we have the back bunkers and the big water carry in the front.

The only thing missing at Bonville’s 17th is the swirling winds.

There are some other holes that have similarity in some of the shots, but we get told that all the time. It’s not really proper business practise to compare yourself to the heaven of golf, but in our own little way we like to think we resemble that beautiful course.

We are happy to think that if people can’t get to Augusta they can at least get to Bonville. They’d be welcomed here with open arms.

The visiting players turned spectators into fans for life at Bonville.

Last question. What’s the highlight of the week so far?

It may sound corny, but the highlight has been to see at reasonably short range the wonderful camaraderie between the women golfers. Young women, or girls in some cases, who are travelling the world in what must be strenuous and difficult circumstances at times. Changing courses and climates all the time, and many of them operating on a shoestring.

I really like that very much.

We were delighted Dame Laura Davies came, and I had the pleasure of playing with her in the pro-am. She was delightful company, but she’s also an amazing golfer for somebody who has won so many tournaments on so many continents and still maintains her passion for the game.

That was a great thrill.

 

FRENCH RESISTANCE ON SHOW AT BONVILLE

The threats were meant to be coming, but it’s the youngster Celine Boutier who is poised for the biggest win of her professional career as the Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville enters the business end here at Coffs Harbour.

Starting with a five-shot lead overnight, the 24-year-old has added two birdies on the front nine to be at -12 for the tournament and unlikely to be caught.

Briton Holly Clyburn’s wishes for the “rub of the green” today seem to have evaporated, with just a single bogey in between regulation pars through the front nine, and with the leader seemingly out of reach.

The biggest challenge has come from young American Katie Burnett who scored back-to-back birdies on six and seven. But it could have been even better, narrowly missing a four-footer on seven for eagle, then a 12-footer on eight for birdie. Nevertheless, this tournament is still for the taking despite the buffer Boutier enjoys.

The finishing stretch of holes on the incredible Bonville course starts from 12, with challenges throughout the finish.

Australians Hannah Green and Rebecca Artis are probably too far back now. Green has played solid to be at even par for the day, whilst Artis is one-over for her round which is now on the back nine.

LEADERBOARD (after 10 holes)
1: Boutier, Celine – 12
2: Burnett, Katie – 8
T3: Holmqvist, Daniela – 6
T3: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 6
T5: Cowan, Olivia – 5
T5: Madsen, Nanna – 5
T7:Clyburn, Holly – 4
T7: Green, Hannah – 4
T9: Danielson, Casey -2
T9: Thanapolboonyaras, Pannarat – 2
T9: Artis, Rebecca – 2

Boutier, Clyburn on top at Bonville

French youngster Celine Boutier is leading the Australian Ladies Classic at Bonville, with a flawless front nine of 31 which included four birdies.

Earlier this week the 24-year-old admitted she had been struggling for form since arriving in Australia, but everything has changed in this inaugural Ladies European Tour event in Coffs Harbour.

Celine Boutier is in a share of the lead midway through the third round.

Boutier birdied 1, 4, 7 and 9 in her storming start to round three and has a share of the lead with Briton Holly Clyburn as the marquee groups turn for the back nine.

Germany’s Olivia Cowan had an outward nine of 34 which might have been spectacular without a double-bogey seven on the par-five fourth hole.

Also making her presence felt is pre-tournament favourite, Perth’s Hannah Green who is two-under for the round with four birdies mixed with two bogeys.

Round of the day so far belongs to Icelandic professional Olafia Kristinsdottir. The 25-year-old was named the Icelandic sportsperson the year in 2017 – the same year she underwent double jaw surgery to correct an underbite.

Playing in the second group, her equal career-best 67 included an eagle on the seventh and five birdies.

“The greens were fresh, and we were really lucky with the weather. I played really well, I drove it well, putted well … I did everything well,” she said.

LEADERBOARD

1: Boutier, Celine – 10
2: Clyburn, Holly – 8
3: Cowan, Olivia – 7
4: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 6
5: Green, Hannah – 5
6: Holmqvist, Daniela – 4
T7: Burnett, Katie – 3
T7: Artis, Rebecca – 3
T9: Haglund, Jenny – 2
T9: Madsen, Nanna – 2

Kim’s still singing in the rain

Christina Kim won’t be going home empty-handed from her trip Down Under.

The popular US golfer has three LPGA wins to her name, and three Solheim Cup victories, but the highlight of two weeks in Australia this year won’t be golfing related.

She finished T81 at the Australian Open in Adelaide and was T32 here at Bonville after the third round. Kim’s three rounds have been 74, 71, 74.

“It was a challenge out there, we had a lot of humidity, and a bit of rain that came down on my last hole (18th).

“The wind swirls through the channels up and down on the fairways of this golf course, so it provides an incredible challenge.

“The greens have definitely got me this week, so hopefully tomorrow I can go out there and get ‘em.”

Kim’s golf has not been near the standard the world has come to expect, but there has also been the welcome distraction of the incredible Coffs Coast.

“I actually love being here in Oz, but this year my love has been unrequited,” the 33-year-old Floridian said.

“This is my first visit to Coffs Harbour, and it’s been absolutely breath-taking.

“My first day here I’m like ‘Are we playing golf here in Jurassic World?’ It’s so cool, I saw a koala yesterday, a wallaby in the wild.

“It’s been an incredible week, it really has.”

Although she flies out to the US tomorrow, her sight-seeing isn’t done.

“I’m hoping to check out the Big Banana before I leave though.”

The Best are lining up for Bonville

Some of the biggest names in Australian and European women’s golf are confirmed as starters in the Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville and Women’s NSW Open later this month.

Multiple Women’s Major Champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member Dame Laura Davies is set to compete in both tournaments, alongside some of the Ladies European Tour’s (LET) best and many of Australian professional golf’s brightest stars.

Seven current LET ranking tournament winners are ready to take part, including Celine Boutier, Isabelle Boineau and Camille Chevalier of France, Nuria Iturrios of Spain and Thailand’s Supamas Sangchan.

Western Australia’s Hannah Green, who will be making her debut on the LPGA Tour this year has also confirmed she will play in the Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville from 22- 25 February. 

Joining Green will be the likes of Charlotte Thomas, Hanee Song, Liv Cheng and Stacey Peters from the Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) ranks.

All up, representatives from over 30 countries will give the two tournaments a truly international flavour.

Stuart Fraser, CEO of Golf NSW was thrilled with the makeup of the fields and is confident the players will enjoy the challenge of both courses and the picturesque Coffs Harbour – NSW Mid North Coast District.

“The list of names who are playing in both the Australian Ladies Classic and the Women’s NSW Open is wonderful,

“The players will find Coffs Harbour is not only a wonderful location with world-class golf courses but a fantastic place to unwind and enjoy the natural beauty that the Mid North Coast of NSW has to offer,” Mr Fraser said.

Recap 2015: Clyburn claims Open Crown

England’s Holly Clyburn came into the 2015 Bing Lee Fujitsu Women’s NSW Open with no expectations and after three enthralling days of golf, she left as the winner.

A hip injury had forced the 24-year-old out of the New Zealand Women’s Open the previous week, and Clyburn was the first to admit she didn’t think she stood much of a chance to contend that week at Oatlands Golf Club.

But after rounds of 69, 66 and 70, she finished on top of the leaderboard at 11-under-par, one clear of NSW’s Rebecca Artis, Austrian Christine Wolf, Scotland’s Vikki Laing and Switzerland’s Fabienne In-Albon.

The NSW Open is renowned for exciting finishes and at one stage mid-way through the back nine on the final day, five players shared the lead at 10-under-par.

It was a birdie on the par four 14th hole which proved crucial on the final day. Clyburn hit her 3 wood off the tee, then her wedge into the green. She left herself with a 9-foot birdie putt which she calmly rolled in to break away from the group of players at 10-under-par.

It was the Englishwoman’s third professional victory after wins on the Ladies European Tour (LET) Access Series and LET.

Clyburn was delighted with the win.

“It means a lot, a have been knocking on the door for a few months now.

“I have been working hard and did not have any expectations this week after last week, so yeah, it has just been great and a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

New South Wales Nikki Garrett (70) finished outright sixth at 9-under-par, while Victorian Stacey Keating (66), South Australian Tamie Durdin (68) and NSW’s Australian Women’s amateur Champion Shelley Shin (69) shared seventh a further shot back.