OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Team golf is taking over New York, with the Aramco Team Series teeing off at Glen Oaks Club on Long Island on Thursday. The 54-hole contest, introduced to the Ladies European Tour for the first time this year, is part of a four-leg format, held in London, Spain, New York, and Jeddah.
Twenty eight teams of four, made up of three pros and one amateur, will face off in the three-day event, competing with a $1 million purse and world ranking points on the line.
Lovingly referred to as the Augusta of the north, Glen Oaks is popular among the golfers, even among those who have never played it before.
“I’ve never been out here but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. I got to play about 14 holes and it’s in perfect shape,” said Lexi Thompson, adding, “it will all come down to the greens.”
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Teams were picked in a unique “NFL-style” draft on Tuesday evening, with captains selecting their first teammate, and the third pro and amateur filled in at random.
Most pros cited their caddy’s research as the reasoning behind the selections, but the choice came down to an in-the-moment decision for others.
With the first pick of the draw, Jessica Korda felt the pressure.
“I’ve known of her for a long time, I didn’t expect to go first, I froze,” said Korda of her choice, Karolin Lampert, adding, “I saw her name and went for it — gut feeling.”
The Aramco series marks team golf’s return to American soil after September’s dramatic Solheim Cup. Catriona Matthew, who captained a victorious European squad, says the team format is central to growing the game.
“I think it’s great for the game of golf,” said Matthew of the Aramco Series, adding, “the fans love seeing team golf and obviously this format where you’re playing with an amateur or other events when men and women play side by side is great fun to have throughout the season.”
Thompson agreed, maintaining that the innovative setup helps the game.
“I think us as athletes, we just want to see the game grow, and I think ideas like this that aren’t just cookie-cutter 72-hole events really brings in new ideas for golf and grows the game.”
Progression of the game, specifically of the women’s Tour, is all part of the tournament’s “Driving Force” initiative, which includes supporting the Girls on the Green Tee charity, which focuses on introducing young girls to the sport. According to the golfers, the tournament itself, and its partnership with Aramco, is a powerful move for the Tour.
“I always say, ever since I turned pro in 2010, we’ve gained more partnership and sponsors, more events, and more prize money. It really just helps out the game in general but especially on the women’s side, I think we’re on the upward rise of things and we want to continue that with the players out here,” said Thompson, “We want to leave the game in a better place than it was when we first got out there.”
Watch out for American Solheim stars Nelly Korda, Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang to make a run at the win with their teams, while European winner Anna Nordqvist teams up with two-team partner Linda Wessberg in her chase for the trophy.
Play begins on Thursday at 7:15 a.m. ET at the Glen Oaks Club on Long Island. The event is being streamed on The Golf Channel.
Clare Brennan is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @clare_brennan2.