Ashleigh Barty to play in exhibition golf event

Former tennis world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty will play in a golf exhibition tournament, organizers said Tuesday, heightening speculation that she could become a golfer after her shock retirement.

The three-time Grand Slam champion stunned the tennis world when she stepped away from the sport in March, with the multi-talented 25-year-old coy about her plans.

But Icons Series organizers revealed that she would be among the sports stars competing in the U.S. event in June.

“We’re thrilled to launch the Icons Series in America with a Mount Rushmore of the world’s best athletes, all incredible golfers and fierce competitors,” Icons Series chief executive Thomas Brookes said in a statement.

U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya are among other famous competitors due to take part at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.

The 28 competitors will be split into Team USA, led by Fred Couples, and Team Rest of the World, led by Ernie Els.

The U.S. tournament is the first in a series, with plans to host editions around the world including in Barty’s home of Australia.

“I’m excited to be part of the Icons Series and I hope through my participation in the series that we can encourage more women and girls to participate in golf around the world,” Barty, known to be a talented golfer, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

“It’s such a unique opportunity to have fun, test yourself and compete against the world’s greatest athletes in a sport that we are all so passionate about.”

Few athletes can boast such a varied sporting resume as the down-to-earth Barty, who plays off a handicap of four at her golf club in Queensland and is engaged to a trainee professional.

She once ditched tennis and excelled in top-level cricket, and picked up her golf clubs in September 2020 to claim the Brookwater Golf Club women’s title near Brisbane.

Golf Hall of Famer and compatriot Karrie Webb said last month that Barty had the talent to be amateur golf champion of Australia one day.

Barty is also set to release a series of children’s books later this year.

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