The Ladies European Tour remains open to embracing new and unique approaches to elite-level tournament golf as a means of elevating the women’s game, says Tour CEO Alexandra Armas.
This year’s season calendar is the most lucrative in LET history, with 34 events across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and as far afield as the US and Australia, where back-to-back events got underway last week in New South Wales.
Following on from the pandemic, 2022 has heralded an exciting new dawn for the tour, which for the first time since 2019 is enjoying a crowded season of events without any potential cancelations, and the return of live crowds.
In many aspects, the Ladies European Tour returned from the pandemic stronger than it went in.
Last season’s introduction of the Aramco Team Series events brought four new $1 million prize-fund tournaments to the calendar, taking the tour to London, Sotogrande in Spain, New York and Jeddah for three days of team competition intertwined with individual scoring.
Its format brought something entirely new and different to the game. Each ATS event sees up to 36 team captains pick a teammate, then be assigned a randomly selected third teammate and an amateur golfer, who plays with a handicap. Together, they then compete over Thursday and Friday as a fourball, with the two lowest scores per hole recorded and the lowest total score winning.
The team events were played for the first time on any professional tour circuit — with the unique twist that the amateur golfer had the opportunity to sink the putts contributing to the team prize money.
Many of the game’s biggest stars played last year, including world No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul, Georgia Hall, Charley Hull, Anna Nordqvist, the Korda sisters and Lexi Thompson.
The concept of a combined team and individual tournament came from Armas, and was backed by Golf Saudi and its sponsor Aramco.
Now, following a successful debut year, the Aramco Team Series events return for 2022, but this time with the addition of the Aramco Team Series — Bangkok, to be played in Thailand on May 12-14.
The events return with a revived format — two days of team competition, then a closing day individual-only battle — and, importantly, the chance for players to earn further prize money, with a share of another $1 million added to the year’s kitty.
“It’s exciting growth,” said Armas, now in her third year as head of the LET.
“Coming out of the pandemic we were looking for partners that would not just allow us to push the tour forward, but also offer a strategic commitment to our players. The partnership with Golf Saudi and Aramco has helped us to achieve that.
“Now the addition of the Aramco Team Series — Bangkok has truly helped us to elevate the tour by driving up the prize funds. The players enjoy playing in the team format and the organization around each of the series’ events, from the quality of the courses to the build, facilities and the hospitality around them is elevating the standards across the board. To many of our members, these events feel like majors — and they look forward to playing in them almost as much.”
Armas said: “In devising the concept for the Aramco Team Series events, we wanted to innovate and do something different. The LET is looking at ways of engaging with our fanbase to get them hooked on watching golf more regularly. New creative ideas and different ways of doing things can help with that.”
The series encompasses everything Armas seeks to achieve across the tour. While attracting the biggest names in golf, it also mixes things up — from its format and NFL-style draft, to players walking onto the tee to their choice of music. Events last year also had live on-course DJs and ice-cream stops, examples of other non-traditional approaches designed to change and retune the tone.
“The Aramco Team Series events appeal to established golf fans and the next generation coming into the game,” said Armas.
“Each of the ATS events last year brought about some truly thrilling golf and epic climaxes, with three of them going to playoffs. Our refined format for this year will only heighten that experience for both players and fans, and I’m excited to get 2022’s series underway in Thailand.”
As key backers of the series, Golf Saudi is also thrilled to see the event grow in stature for 2022.
Deputy Chairman and CEO Majed Al-Sorour said: “The format of the Aramco Team Series was a prospect that we were desperate to be involved in from the get-go — and for a debut event, it could really not have gone any better last year. The players loved it and it allowed us to grow the women’s game, including by taking the Ladies European Tour to the US for the first time in its history with the Aramco Team Series — New York.
“To be expanding the series into a new territory with our Thailand event for 2022 is a massively exciting next step. We can’t wait to be part of it and to see the role all five events continue to have in advancing women’s golf.”
The Aramco Team Series — Bangkok kicks off 2022’s run of tournaments on May 12-14, at the Thai Country Club. The Aramco Team Series — London takes place at Centurion Club on June 16-18, the Aramco Team Series – Sotogrande takes place at La Reserva Club De Sotogrande on Aug. 18-20, the Aramco Team Series — New York will be played at a venue soon to be announced, on Oct. 13-15, and the Aramco Team Series — Jeddah will return to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, on Nov. 9-11.