Sporting world erupts over Ash Barty return on international stage

Ash Barty, pictured here making her return to international sport at the Icons Series golf event.
Ash Barty made her return to international sport at the Icons Series golf event. Image: Getty

Ash Barty has made her return to sport on the international stage, playing in the Icons Series golf event in New Jersey.

After shocking the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at age 25, Barty has sparked intense speculation that she's eyeing a code switch to golf.

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In April she revealed that she would play in the Icons Series exhibition event alongside some of the biggest names in international sport.

And on Thursday and Friday she did just that, playing for Team World against Team America alongside the likes of swimming legend Michael Phelps, boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez, English footballer Harry Kane and Aussie cricket legend Ricky Ponting.

Barty impressed with her golf skills, however she couldn't help her team beat the Americans.

Barty and Kane lost their fourball match against American baseball legend John Smoltz and former NBA star JR Smith.

She then teamed up with Ponting but lost to former NFL players Reggie Bush and Michael Vick.

Barty did manage to score a win over former NFL player Andrew Whitworth in the singles, however Team USA went on to win by 10 points.

Fred Couples captained Team USA to victory, while Ernie Els led the World team.

Some of the others stars in action included Hall of Fame NFL players Marshall Faulk and Michael Strahan, recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and retired Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh.

Ash Barty and Andrew Whitworth, pictured here after their singles match at the icons Series golf event.
Ash Barty and Andrew Whitworth shake hands after their singles match at the icons Series golf event. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

It was the third event in the Icons Series. The first was in Dubai in 2015 and the second in England in 2017.

An event planned in Japan in 2019 was canceled because of a tsunami and earthquake days apart, while the Covid pandemic kept the event off course in 2021.

“I think golf is so relevant right now and more so after the pandemic, that it needs an injection of innovation, fresh air,” said Icons Series CEO Tom Brookes.

“There’s a lot of disruption and fracture in golf right now. And what we want to do is the opposite.

"We want to unify icons of all the sports, to unify people, to come together and enjoy an entertainment product that has a golf focus to it.”

Ash Barty set for permanent switch to golf?

As for Barty, the foray into golf could become something more permanent.

Aussie tennis great and good friend Rennae Stubbs previously said she was tipping Barty's next sporting foray to be into the world of professional golf.

And the 25-year-old's father Rob - himself a former state amateur golfer like wife Josie - has fulled the speculation even further.

“She’s too good. She can beat me. She’s the best golfer in the house,” Rob Barty told AAP.

“She plays off a three handicap around Brookwater (in Brisbane) and plays a couple of times a year.

“I don’t know what she’s going to do to be honest, but I know she gets a lot of enjoyment out of golf so I think she’ll play (more).

“But I don’t know what she’ll do (professionally).”

Ash Barty and Harry Kane, pictured here during the Icons Series golf event.
Ash Barty and Harry Kane look on during the Icons Series golf event. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Seven-time major winner Karrie Webb played a round with Barty at Victoria Golf Club in 2019 and she had the talent to make it on the LPGA tour.

"She's a really handy player and just that one day I could tell if she puts some time into it she will be a great player," Webb told AAP.

"It was everything - she hit the ball a long way - but a lot of athletes are very hand-eye co-ordinated and they get out there and they're fairly decent at hitting the ball.

"When it comes to the finesse shots, sometimes that's where they struggle, but she's got good hands from how she plays tennis."

with AAP

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