Ashleigh Simon (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon and Paula Reto are among the world’s top women golfers set to take the Olympic stage in Rio de Janeiro.
A field of 60 competitors in the women’s golf competition at Rio 2016 will be seeking to follow in the footsteps of American Margaret Abbott, who won the gold medal in Paris in 1900.
Like Adilson da Silva in the men’s competition, the host nation’s Miriam Nagl will be in the company of Irish amateur Leona Maguire and Kelly Tan of Malaysia. Nagl’s drive will mark the return of women’s golf as an Olympic sport after an absence of 116 years.
South Africa’s Paula Reto will hit South Africa’s first shot at 12:52 SA time.
Reto is teeing off with two-time LPGA Tour winner Haru Nomura from Japan and Pernille Lindberg from Sweden, who like Simon, also celebrated Espirito Santo Trophy victory in the World Amateur Team Championships before she turned pro in 2009.
South Africa’s Simon goes off nearly two hours later at 14:47 SA time.
Her company for the first two rounds include Nicole Broch Larsen from Denmark - the Ladies European Tour Player of the Year in 2015 - and last year’s US Women’s Open Championship winner Chun In Gee from South Korea.
World No 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand will start her campaign alongside Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Great Britain’s Charley Hull in the final group.
Ko comes into the event as the top ranked golfer in the current world rankings and the No 1 qualifier for the Olympics, however, number two Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand is very much the in-form golfer at the moment.
Fresh from her first major championship victory at the Women’s British Open a fortnight ago, Jutanugarn will represent Thailand playing alongside American Stacy Lewis and Sei Young Kim from the Republic of Korea.
Canadian Brooke Henderson, the current world No 3, has been paired with two-time major champion Suzann Pettersen from Norway and fourth ranked Lexi Thompson of the United States.
Former world No 1 Inbee Park from Korea has been side-lined since the beginning of June with a thumb injury, but she has worked hard toward the opportunity to represent her country in Rio and will tee it up with American Gerina Piller and Spain’s Azahara Munoz.
In addition to Maguire, the field also includes two more amateur golfers including Tiffany Chan of Hong Kong and Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland.