I have to confess I was a little off the grid last week mainly because of having family coming to visit – the first time we’d seen them for almost two years thanks to Covid.  So, understandably, the golf wasn’t particularly on my radar even though it was the fourth of the women’s five majors, the Amundi Evian Championship that was taking place.  There was also the Senior Open at lovely Sunningdale which resulted in an emotional win for Welshman Stephen Dodd.

But I’m happy to report one of my favourites came through at Evian.  Minjee Lee, a charismatic 25-year old Australian managed to win her first major and ditch that rather irritating label of being the best player never to have won one.  She shot a final round 64, coming from seven shots behind the overnight leader, 2019 US Open Champion, Jeongeun Lee6.  The two tied on 18 under par and it was Minjee’s stellar 6-iron to set up a 12-footer for eagle at the first play-off hole that provided the ultimate bit of pressure to which the Korean had no answer.

Minjee made up a seven-shot deficit to match the largest final round comeback in women’s major championship history [LPGA]

For those of you not particularly au fait with women’s golf that Lee6 is not a misprint or typo.  Jeongeun Lee is the sixth player with that name to be a member of the Korean LPGA and the women choose to differentiate one from the other by using a number, hence the 6.  Lee6 was chasing her second major title and looked to have it in the bag when she had a five-shot lead after 54 holes but a calamitous run of five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch to the turn meant the hunted became the hunter.  All credit to her for her resilient fight back closing with three straight birdies to force the play-off.

Minjee Lee also posted a bit of a storming finish of her own, carding four birdies in the last five holes of regulation play before that winning birdie at the first play-off hole.  This much awaited first title will lift a lot of the weight of expectation off her shoulders, joining as she does the three other Australian women to have tasted major success – the inimitable Jan Stephenson, former world No 1 Karrie Webb and current tour player Hannah Green.  Webb has paid back to Australian golf tenfold with her mentoring of young aspiring women determined to emulate her erstwhile dominance in the game and Minjee is one who has benefited from Webb’s support and advice over the last decade.

Karrie with the Evian trophy in 2006. She has won seven major titles in her time. Now she gets as much pleasure from watching young Australian players lift some of those self-same trophies [courtesy of Karrie’s website.]

I’m always being asked what the winners of these majors do in the hours after a win.  After her media commitments Minjee was due to jump on a plane to return home to Texas to meet up with her brother Min Woo who won the Scottish Open on the European Tour the other week.  That was his second tour victory and the two were planning a celebration (make that a double one now) after which Minjee was heading back to the airport to board a plane for Tokyo and her second Olympics.  It’s a dizzying travel schedule to get your head around – especially for those of us who have been grounded for a couple of years.

I have my own fond memories of playing in some of the first Evian Championships.  It was always a five-star tournament and provision of first-class accommodation, courtesy cars and sponsor-hosted dinners and barbeques was not something we experienced on a weekly basis.  We were always well looked after and made to feel special.  The course has changed considerably since my day and a long hitter like Laura Davies frequently had to wait for distant par 5 greens to clear before she launched her second shot.

Then, as now, Laura was a huge footie fan and during one early Evian Championship, chafing against the slow play that was keeping her from the telly and watching her beloved England, she stashed a little portable TV in her golf bag.  I was playing with her at the time and as we waited at various tees out came the telly and we were able to catch up on the latest play and scores.  If I remember rightly she was fined for this behaviour and admonished by the tour for being “disrespectful to the sponsors”.  Anyone who knew Laura  knew she would never be disrespectful.  My theory was that the fledgling tour didn’t quite know how to handle its very first real live superstar.

Laura is making inroads into a new career – that of one with microphone in hand as opposed to golf club [courtesy of Laura’s twitter feed.]

And last week Dame Laura, as she is now, was back again, this time commentating at Evian for Sky.  I for one like her style – she’s knowledgeable, insightful, incisive and often very funny.  It’ll be hard for her to be as good with a mic as she was with her clubs but she’s giving it a jolly good go.

She certainly had a lot of quality golf to watch including a couple of 61s, one by Lee6 on Friday and a Sunday one for Ireland’s Leona Maguire which gave her a sixth place finish.  Leona has surely done enough now to cement her place on her first Solheim Cup team.  She impresses more on every outing and has increased her swing speed, adding 20 yards to her shots.  Off to Tokyo now for the Olympics she’ll surely relish having another tilt at Minjee Lee, the latest major champion in the women’s game.

I bet she’s thinking, “Anything you can do…….”

Leona is a very different player from the one who teed it up here in Rio. She’s now a serious major title contender and Olympic medal hope [courtesy of LPGA.com]