Strong field lines up for classic

FORMER Queensland team captain and two-times defending champion Jo-Anne Atkin will be chasing her sixth Division 1 title at the prestigious annual Bundaberg Motor Group Bargara Golf Club Ladies' Classic when it tees off on Monday.

But Val Bazley, who has been tournament director in every one of the Classic's 26 years, said the Pacific Golf Club of Brisbane member could be challenged with a quality field of 230 players to battle it out over three rounds.

Players from many parts of Queensland will converge on the coastal strip, along with a number of interstate raiders from New South Wales and Western Australia.

Atkin first claimed the crown in 1991, and she again reigned supreme in 2002 and 2003, before returning to the top of the leader-board in 2008, then successfully defended her title 12 months ago with a seven-shot victory over Lyndall Plant.

It is no surprise that the popular competitor is back in search of a three-peat after stating after her win last year that she “just love(s) the camaraderie'' of the tournament and that “it is a very well-managed'' event.

Two other former winners of the Classic are also among the field, Bargara's own Nikita Thomas, who was queen of the green in 2005, and Marian Hemsley, of Bundaberg, who beat all comers to start the new millennium 10 years ago.

“Nikita had a baby and had been at university, but has come back this year and has been playing very good golf – she won the Bundaberg Ladies' Open Day and the Maryborough Ladies' Open Day in September and is also among the chances,'' Bazley said.

“Also Joan Milton has been our club champion for many years and has a handicap of eight, Susie Elton, who competed here years ago, has returned from Port Moresby to play, and some of the other single-markers include Rhondelle Ollett and Claire Jackson, both from Redcliffe, and Jo McAntee from Mt Warren Park, who are all also on eight, and Rosalyn Gardiner from Bribie Island, who's one seven.

“Support from the clubs in Central Queensland has been fantastic – Rockhampton, Yeppoon Gladstone and Capricorn Country – and following the recent rain, the course is in excellent condition for the 54-hole event and the organising committee is hoping for clear skies and also looking forward to some excellent golf during the three days.''

Wantima's Marg Anderson and Bargara's Jenny Turner won the second and third divisions respectively last year, but Bazley said she could not pick a winner of them this time with competition for all silverware certain to be “very keen''.

Play will start at 6.44am daily and the course will be closed for social play until after 3pm each day. Some of the players will warm up for the main event by being among a field of more than 100 which will contest a Mixed Fourball on the course tomorrow.

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