The Tarra Kia Bega Squash Open is presenting the strongest field yet.
Thanks to a partnership with Kia Australia, the Bega PSA tournament has now matched the Australian Open’s prize pool and has drawn in the same two grand finalists from the national event as top seeds.
“Australian Open grand finalists Rex Hedrick and Dimitri Steinmann will be out here actually playing,” Bega squash club president John Stylianou said.
It’s also become a drawcard at home and internationally with eight individual countries represented this week.
“This year we’ve got eight players from overseas but a big part of that is we’ve been attracting more top players from Australia,” Mr Stylianou said.
He said it was rewarding and enjoyable for Bega to be able to host an international-level event, which is now recognised as a stop on the official Australian tour.
“It’s worth achieving and I’m glad we did it,” Mr Stylianou said. “It’s not a tournament in isolation; we’ve got the support of Kia and Squash Australia and that gives us great strength.
“It’s a good thing, we’ve been able to create a tournament that’s part of the Australian tour.”
The full field of 24 professional players, including five top 100 players in the world, are all being billeted with local homes so they don’t have to worry about accommodation, while Tarra Kia was also helping to provide cars for players to get around.
“The feedback we’ve had is that the tournament is relaxed and inclusive, we’re seeing players come back for the third year running.”
Nearly a dozen players who were signed up to a Melbourne-based PSA event this week have instead made the trip to Bega.
“The fact they want to be here speaks volumes about our tournament.”
A slightly reduced, but competitive contingent will also contest the regular Bega Open in conjunction this weekend, while the Country Club viewing gallery has been packed out with spectators.
“We wlcome anyone, squash fans or not to come out and watch,” Mr Styliaou said.
He said “prime time” for anyone interested would be Friday night’s quarter-finals showdown – the Country Club puts on a regular Friday night dinner, while from 7pm the eight potential grand finalists will all be on show at the Bega courts.
The regular Open runs on the weekend with finals early Sunday afternoon with everyone welcome.
“We’re looking to build on this tournament as the first of the three-year deal with Kia Australia,” Mr Stylianou said.
“This is a foundation for years to come.
Squash Australia event director Kay Kendall and ACT Squash president Michael Nuttall are coming as well and we'll all sit down for planning for the next couple of years.”