What a year 2014 has been so far for our guys on the PGA Tour! Five individual winners, currently 4 Australians in the top 35 of the Fedex Cup Standings, and of course to top it off Adam Scott has become the first Australian become the No. 1 golfer on the planet since Greg Norman held that mantle some sixteen years ago.
Meanwhile on the LPGA Tour their counterparts have also had a strong start to the LPGA tour, led of course by Karrie Webb who won twice in the early part of the season. Looking from the outside in, this year has a slightly different feel to past years, when we have had the stalwarts of the Australian game, of course Webb, along with Katherine Kirk (nee Hull), Lindsey Wright, Sarah Jane Smith and Sarah Kemp competing.
In 2014, whether Webb’s incredible start to the season has been a motivating factor who knows, but we seem to have a more focused and determined group of players who all seem to be feeding off their colleagues, of course led by the still incredibly determined world number 5 Karrie Webb.
Katherine Hull, who became Mrs Tom Kirk in 2012, has had a promising start to 2014 and looks to have regained some of the form that has seen her earn more than US$3.7 million and record two LPGA wins. Katherine has been a regular on LPGA leaderboards so far in 2014 and while she has not converted any of those surely it is only a matter of time until a player of her class finds her way back into the winner’s circle.
Fellow Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith’s best finish in her 8 year LPGA career was 6th place until her 2nd place finish a few weeks back at the Kingsmill Championship. For Sarah Jane who travels on tour with her husband Duane who also acts as her caddy, 2nd place is not the win she covets but it certainly does make her plans for the rest of 2014 a lot easier! Apart from the $90,000 cheque, she will now most likely qualify for all of the remaining majors (apart from the US Open) as well as the limited field events at the end of 2014 and early 2015, by virtue of her position on the LPGA money list. This could really be the break “SJ” has been working so hard for and she now has the opportunity to establish herself in the upper echelon of women’s golf.
Sarah Kemp decided over Christmas that it was time to get the whip cracking and along with her close friend French professional Joanna Klatten, put in some tough gym time and long hours on the practice ground and putting green. “Kempy” has long been touted as one of the game’s next stars and while she has had some degree of success has never reached the heights many had hoped. The bar has been raised so much in terms of professionalism and work ethic in the women’s game over the past 10 years it is easy to get left behind unless you are prepared to grind and make the necessary sacrifices. Kempy’s early season form on the LPGA has been solid and if she keeps it up should be good enough to open up some exciting playing opportunities later in the year.
Stacey Keating is one of the most focused and dedicated players on tour, and has spent the past 3 years playing on the Ladies European Tour. Stacey felt that it was the right time to head to the LPGA with wins (and a two-year exemption!) under her belt in Europe and was bitterly disappointed not to get through qualifying school with her full card. So far in 2014 she has made the most of the opportunities she has had and courtesy of a re-rank of her category will get a start in all of the full field events she enters for the next 3 months. She also played in the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst, having been the medallist in a 36-hole qualifier in North Carolina.
It is great to see our girls putting in the hard yards in search of their dreams. There are no short cuts to success in professional golf and sometimes it can be a lonely road! Our young players on the LPGA are so fortunate to have such an amazing role model and mentor in Karrie Webb. If you see one of our young players having success on any tour you can guarantee that Karrie will be following the results and she will be the first one to pat them on the back and say well done.