The shift in venue follows the governing bodies of Australian golf setting up shop at Sandy Golf Links, where the event will take place across the street from Royal Melbourne, with players competing over a unique format for two days.

Some of the rising stars of Australian golf will attempt to put their name on the trophy, while Karis Davidson will get in another tune-up to her game before she embarks on her maiden LPGA Tour season.

Named for the Greek goddess of war, strategy and wisdom, The Athena tests players skills across every element of the game on day one before match play decides the champion from the 12 contestants. The WPGA Tour of Australasia event taking place on February 26 and 27, broadcast on Foxtel and supported by adidas Golf, Golf Challenge and Callaway Golf.

DEFENDING CHAMPION: South Australia’s Kristalle Blum took home the inaugural event in 2021, with Australian golf royalty watching on in the form of Karrie Webb who was commentating on the week.

RIGHT: Grace Kim is among the favourites to take out the title this week at Sandy Golf Links. PHOTO: PGA Tour of Australasia.

Defeating Robyn Choi in the quarter finals before accounting for Becky Kay in the semi, Blum faced Kono Matsumoto in the final and managed to survive some nervous moments at the last hole.

Playing the par-5 with a two-shot advantage, Blum blocked her second shot from the fairway well right of the elevated green leaving the door ajar for Matsumoto to steal victory. However, a tidy pitch and two putts were enough to secure a career altering win for Blum, who will not defend her title this week.

COURSE: Once known as Sandringham Golf Club, Sandy Golf Links is one of the latest players in the Australian golf scene and has made quite an impact since reopening following a redesign that put an emphasis on fun, playable golf with a touch of its famed Sandbelt neighbours.

Originally created by the prolific Vern Morcom in 1932, with a touch up completed in 1956, ‘Sandy’ was the beneficiary of an OCM (Ogilvy, Cocking, Mead) overhaul that was completed in 2020 and saw the layout make its Top-100 debut this year.

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Ranked No.51 in the country by Golf Australia Magazine, the par-65 measures under 5,000 metres and is designed to not only encourage new players but test the strategic mind and execution of better players, like the 12 Athena competitors this week.

The starting place for many a now seasoned professional golfer, Sandy has the same Suttons Mix putting surfaces as Royal Melbourne’s top ranked courses and is also the site of the Australian Golf Centre housing the offices of the PGA of Australia, WPGA and Golf Australia and the elite development team.

The redesigned Sandy Golf Links plays host to the second playing of The Athena. PHOTO: Brendan James.

“This is a really interesting redesign by OCM that could be the future of public golf. It has plenty of width off the tee, is short by modern standards but tricky around the greens for low handicappers to provide a challenge. The public are eating it up with the course solidly booked,” Golf Australia Top-100 panellist Ashley Clinch said.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Comprising “Australia’s best young female talent” the entire field have genuine claims here, however a couple of names standout courtesy of their recent play.

Grace Kim shared fourth last week at the TPS Murray River behind Hannah Green, the latest in a string of promising results from the Sydneysider who has made a stellar start to her pro career.

Kim was second behind Su Oh at the inaugural WPGA Championship, T12 at the TPS Victoria and was tipped to be a contender at the Vic Open before disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard on Thursday. An exceptionally consistent player who loves competing, this event is perfect for Kim.

Preparing to begin life as an LPGA player, Karis Davidson is sure to feature here.

One of a handful of returning players from 2021 with experience in the format, Davidson has been in top form since earning her Tour card at the stressful Q Series, finishing fourth at the WPGA, runner-up to Green at the Vic Open and winning the WPGA Melbourne International.

The Queenslander is an experienced pro aged just 23 after playing in Japan in recent years and would love nothing more than to put another win on her resume before heading stateside.

Recently earning her LPGA Tour card, Karis Davidson will have high hopes in Melbourne this week. PHOTO: PGA Tour of Australasia.

Davidson’s fellow Queenslander Cassie Porter (pictured top) is another with good lead in form, with shares of fourth (Vic Open) and sixth (TPS Murray River) in her last two starts.

Hailing from the Sunshine Coast, Porter turned pro late last year after winning the Keperra Bowl and finishing in the top-10 of Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship and seems to have instantly found her feet in the play-for pay ranks.

A player who has shown flashes of what she is capable over the Summer of Golf, Stephanie Bunque is one of the longer players in the field so if she can navigate the challenge portion with greater success than last year could have an advantage around the short Sandy Links and has plenty of experience on Sandbelt courses.

A standout amateur Kirsten Rudgeley has been playing some great golf of late, while it will be interesting to watch how the two qualifiers via the Golf Challenge App, Molly McLean and Royal Melbourne trainee Jade Shellback fare.

THE FORMAT: On the first day, each player will have one shot at nine different challenges, with points awarded deciding the eight who advance to day two. The nine segments of the Golf Challenge Day include among them tests of accuracy, power, scrambling and putting.

The second day sees the top-eight go head-to-head in seeded stroke play matches over three holes, with a ‘Putt Off’ to decide any ties.

FULL PLAYER LIST: Cassie Porter (QLD), Grace Kim (NSW), Grace Lennon (Victoria), Hanee Song (NZ), Jade Shellback (Victoria), Julienne Soo (Victoria), Karis Davidson (Queensland), Kelsey Bennett (NSW), Kirsten Rudgeley (WA), Molly McLean (Victoria), Sarah Wilson (Queensland) and Stephanie Bunque (Victoria).

Day 1: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 12:30pm – 4:30pm)
Day 2: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 12:30pm – 4:30pm)
*AEDT, check local guides