Barwon Heads is once again thriving with Australian and international golf talent as from today Thirteenth Beach Golf Links plays host to one of the most unique professional tournaments in the world, the Oates Vic Open.

Quickly growing in popularity both with players and golf fans, the 2018 Vic Open provides a veritable golf feast with Golf Victoria running concurrent men’s and women’s tournaments sanctioned by the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour (ALPG) and Ladies European Tour (LET) across Thirteenth Beach Golf Links’ Creek and Beach courses.

Matthew Griffin, winner of the men’s event in 2014, said the tournament is one of the highlights on his calendar and not just due to the fact he returns as a former champion.

“There’s just a really nice feel around the whole event. You get to see a lot of old friends from the ladies side that you haven’t seen in a while and obviously it’s always great coming back to a place where you’ve won before as well,” said Griffin who was quick to praise the efforts of Golf Victoria for continuing to grow the popular tournament.

“They’ve done a great job in building the event, it just gets bigger every year. There are some tournaments around that are going the other way so it’s good to see this one growing each year.

“The whole idea of tournament golf is to get more people playing and if these kinds of events can draw more people to the game through participation and sponsorship, it’s definitely a win for us as players because it obviously means we’re playing for a bigger prize like this year.”

In 2018 the tournament has increased the prize purse by $300,000, meaning both the men and women are competing for a total of $650,000 each, which also makes it one of the most sought-after prizes on the ALPG and LET circuits.

Defending women’s champion Mel Reid, a six-time winner on the LET, said the equal amount of money on offer is not only good for the tournament, but for women’s golf as a whole.

“I think it’s great. I think that’s kind of the way that golf needs to go to a certain degree,” Reid said. “There’s lots of equality chat going on at the minute all over the world and the prizemoney for the guys is obviously much more on the [US] PGA Tour than the LPGA.

“I don’t find that very acceptable and so it’s nice to have a tournament where it is equal. It’s great for the girls and great publicity for us. I hope that the guys enjoy us being around as well.

“For me, there should be way more tournaments like this at the same venue. I think it would be fantastic for golf.”

As Griffin mentioned, the Oates Vic Open provides an opportunity for both sides of the draw to catch up in what is an otherwise hectic playing schedule.

Hannah Green, who began her first full season on the LPGA Tour at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic last week by finishing tied for 11th, made a mad dash from the Bahamas to Barwon Heads to tee it up.

“It’s a pretty special event I think to have both the men and women play. My boyfriend Jarryd (Felton) also plays, so that’s a factor in coming back too and it’s a great course and great venue. We’re pretty lucky,” Green said.

Felton, a two-time PGA Tour of Australasia winner, and Green will no doubt be looking to replicate Richard Green and Marianne Skarpnord’s famous victory in the 2015 Oates Vic Open when the engaged couple took out their respective tournaments.

Green and Felton last played a professional tournament against one another at last year’s Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open.

“This year I’ll be travelling a lot and Jarryd will be too, so we won’t be crossing paths that many times,” Green said. “To be able to play any event on the same course is pretty cool.

“I was thinking two years ago the purse was so different and it’s just getting better and better. Obviously the prizemoney is a factor to come and play too, but it’s just such a great event and it’s nice to see the interest growing in it.”

The Oates Vic Open will be played from February 1-4 at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links with a field of 144 players vying for a prize purse of $650,000. The winner will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points and become fully exempt on to the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of this season plus a further two years.

Those unable to make the trip to Thirteenth Beach Golf Links this week will still be able to watch the weekend’s action with the return of the Oates Vic Open live stream through PGA TV.