West Lancs hosts the first event of a bigger, more-lucrative Rose Ladies Series on Thursday, and Justin Rose’s manager, Paul McDonnell is delighted to be supporting Ladies European Tour golfers once again
Charley Hull won the Rose Ladies Series Order of Merit last year
The Rose Ladies Series returns this week, with larger fields, bigger prize money and more venues the feature for this year’s 11-tournament competition.
Originally the brainchild of Ladies European Tour player Liz Young, the series soon received the backing of Justin and Kate Rose and was transformed from a one-off event at Brokenhurst Manor into a seven-tournament season followed by a three-day Grand Final.
Sadly, the finale at Wentworth was cruelly curtailed by a nearby wildfire which forced play to be abandoned, but there were no signs of bitterness from the field as Charley Hull was presented with £20,000 for winning the Order of Merit. The players were grateful to be given the chance to compete in such a torrid year, and all were looking forward to another instalment.
Kate Rose was delighted to support the Series along with her husband
“Obviously it was a sad note to finish on last year, but the ladies were generally just happy to be out there competing, in the knowledge that some in other countries had no chance of getting out and playing in competition,” said Excel Sports Management’s Paul McDonnell, the long-time friend and manager for Justin Rose.
“Last year’s Series worked well, until the fire put paid to the final day at Wentworth, but it was decided that having a three-day finale this year would be too difficult logistically. So the final this year is a one-day event at Bearwood Lakes. I’ve spoken to the owner and he’s assured me the course and surroundings will be heavily watered, so no chance of a fire this time!”
McDonnell was quick to alert the Roses of Young’s idea for competitive golf last year, with the coronavirus pandemic preventing the majority of the Ladies European Tour members of any competitive golf. Once Justin and Kate committed a substantial sum of their own money to the project, McDonnell oversaw the running of each event along with tournament director, Molly Bullard.
“We were thinking it was going to be a one-day event, and I spoke to Justin and Kate about adding on to the launch at Brokenhurst Manor, they committed their money for a mini-series, and then to find seven golf courses to host over seven weeks was brilliant,” McDonnell added.
“And they were all high-quality venues, none more so than this year’s Open venue, Royal St George’s. So looking back, it was an amazing year, and as soon as the series had finished, we had emails from a number of the players asking about the prospect of another Series this year.
“There is a need for competitive golf, and we’ve been careful and structured over how we’ve set this season up. We’ve got four events in place before the Ladies European Tour begins in May, and we’ve scheduled a few for the week of the Olympic Games while also attempting to plug any gaps in the LET schedule.”
Justin Rose committed a substantial amount of his own money to fund the Series
The Series made history last summer when professional women’s golf was pl ayed at Royal St George’s for the first time, and McDonnell is delighted with the line-up of venues for this year, with more events in the north of England and one in Scotland, with Royal Birkdale the stand-out.
“Justin and Kate are keen to push the boundaries in women’s sport, and we’ve managed to secure some iconic courses to host our events this year. Royal Birkdale obviously stands out as a special place for Justin, it’s where he announced himself to world golf during The Open in 1998.
“The big difference in the schedule this year is geography. Last year’s Series was based primarily in the south of England, mainly due to Covid-19 restrictions, but there is a much wider range of host course this year in terms of location.”
The likes of Hull, Georgia Hall and two-time winner Gemma Dryburgh will be unable to feature in the first phase of events as they compete on the LPGA Tour, but McDonnell insisted the Series was not all about promoting the star draws.
Kate Rose, who alongside husband and professional golfer Justin Rose helped organise the Rose Ladies Series, speaks about how they have raised their son to fight for gender equality.
“When I sat down with Justin and Kate to discuss this year’s Series, we wanted more venues, bigger fields, and we wanted the first prize to be even bigger as well. So we’ve achieved that, and the field size can increase to around 85 at certain venues, if need be.
“It’s all about maximising the playing opportunities. It’s a shame that the likes of Georgia, Charley and Gemma won’t be there initially, but they’re lucky enough to be playing on the LPGA Tour right now. Clearly, we can’t compete with the LPGA in terms of prize funds, but what it’s all about is giving the LET players that chance to play tournaments, something many of them would not have had the chance to do for months.
“It would actually be great to see 11 different winners this year, and if many of them were players from the LET Access Tour. While it’s nice to have star names to increase the profile of the Series, we understand that it’s just as important to increase the playing opportunities for others.”
McDonnell has also added some exceptional backing to last year’s main sponsors, Computacenter and American Golf, with BMW on board for the 2021 Series while the R&A have given their official backing.
Georgia Hall will miss the initial phase of events while on the LPGA Tour
“The day after last year’s final was curtailed by the fire, Kevin Stavers at Computacenter called me to assure me of their backing for another Rose Ladies Series in 2021,” McDonnell added. “American Golf were also happy to continue their support, and to have the backing of the R&A this year while adding BMW to our list of sponsors is fantastic.
“We’re also doing our own television coverage this year, and each event will be shown on Sky Sports Golf and will be available on their YouTube channel within 48 hours of the tournament finishing. The YouTube deal was important to Justin and Kate. While we’re giving golfers the opportunity to play, we also wanted to make the Series available to view for free and increase our audience.”
So, television coverage has been taken care of, but there are currently no plans in place to have spectators in attendance, at least for the first four events, while the remainder could also be played behind closed doors to minimise the overheads and ensure better prize money.
“A few of the courses we’re visiting don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate spectators anyway, and those that do still have to fork out for catering, toilet facilities, extra parking and implement various health and safety requirements. We would love fans there, but we can’t at the moment while we also need to be wary of keeping the costs down, and the prize money up.
“At the end of the day, the aim is to support ladies golf in this country. There’s a real buzz about the first event at West Lancs on Thursday, Justin is really excited about having his name on the Series again, and we’ve got a really exciting few weeks ahead of us.
“And, most importantly, the players are excited. And when you get good feedback from them, then we must be doing something right!”