July and August are some of the most exciting months in the Women’s game, with the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters (LEM), The Ricoh Women’s British Open and, a new event in 2015, the International Crown (which I will get to in next month’s issue)! This year, I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks out on the road, attending various meetings with stakeholders and, of course, supporting our players.
The ISPS Handa LEM saw 13 ALPG members plus Minjee Lee and Su Hyun Oh playing in the event, which from my memory is one of the largest antipodean contingents at a Women’s event anywhere outside our territory. Our ladies had a great week and many of them featured on the leaderboard at different stages of the tournament. Nikki Campbell had her best finish on the Ladies European Tour, finishing 2nd to Korean star IK Kim. In the end we had 7 Australians in the top 25 which was a great result for our contingent. On the Friday evening we held an “ALPG” night for our members and their partners plus a couple of special invitations in Minjee and Su who had been given sponsor invites into the tournament. It was great to see our players get together in a relaxed atmosphere and fun to watch our younger members (as well as Minjee and Su) listen as Karrie and the other more senior players reminisced about the “old days”. Karrie does so much for our younger players on tour which goes mostly unrecognised, including playing practice rounds with them and giving advice on and off the course.
The tournament, which was held at the home of the LET, the beautiful Buckinghamshire Golf Club just outside London was a huge success with massive galleries turning out to watch the star-studded field which included “Dame” Laura Davies and rising English star Charley Hull. It would be remiss of me not to mention ISPS Handa, the title sponsor, for their support of Women’s golf. The Ladies European Masters will always be a very special event to me since its inception in 2012, and I would like to very sincerely thank Dr Haruda Handa for ISPS’s support of the this event along with their title sponsorship of both the Women’s Australian Open and NZ Open.
From London I headed up the M6 to the Ricoh Women’s British Open, first stop was to Southport and Ainsdale GC to support our players going through the rigours of final qualifying. There were 67 players competing for 15 places in the 3rd major championship of 2014. It proved to be another great day for the Aussies as Stacey Keating, Steph Na, Su Hyun Oh and Kiwi Cathryn Bristow all qualified while Bree Arthur needed birdie at the first hole of a seven way playoff to ensure her place in the field.
The Royal Birkdale course was setup much tougher than I had experienced in the British Opens I had competed in previously in 1986, 2000, 2005 and 2010. It is one of the toughest links courses in the world and with the fairways narrowed in and the rough extremely punishing, it proved too tough of a test for most of our girls. Links golf in tough conditions takes time to learn, and I am sure all of our girls who played will be better equipped next time they face a test such as this. Unfortunately Nikki Campbell and Sarah Kemp were the only Australians to make it to the weekend.
The winner of the tournament, 31 year-old American Mo Martin is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Coming into the tournament Mo was the straightest driver on the LPGA tour in 2014 and the course set up perfectly for her. It was somewhat of a fairytale win for Martin, considering that she had never held the lead in an LPGA tournament in her 3 years on tour, and coming after 9 years as a professional golfer. The win was an extremely popular one, and many players and caddies stayed to the end congratulate her after an agonising wait to see if Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen or Shanshan Feng could match her clubhouse score.
I am sure that there are many journeymen/women professionals out there who have been inspired by Martin’s win hoping that they can be the next Mo!