I am going to concentrate on the women this week – despite the fact that the elite men’s game as we know it may never be the same again after the first of the Saudi-backed, Greg Norman-led LIV Invitational Golf Series. And what better place to start than with another Australian, the less divisive, newly-minted US Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee?
Effortlessly elegant, with a magical combination of liquid power and a deft touch around the greens, the Aussie has now ascended to No 3 in the world after winning her second major last weekend. It took her seven years in the paid ranks to win her first major, the Evian Masters, last year and it would be no surprise if the floodgates now opened and her tally mounted.
Lee started the final round three strokes ahead of American Mina Harigae and finished winning by four – plenty of breathing room which afforded her the luxury of three-putting two out of her last three greens. Such was her dominance around the exacting, beautiful Pine Needles in North Carolina that there were only nine players within eleven shots of the Australian’s total. Dare I say it was a Tiger-esque performance?
Her younger brother, Si Woo, a member of the DP World Tour, posted the following on his twitter account:-
I love the picture of Min Woo with his serious-looking big sister and it’s so good to see an Australian woman player back near the top of the world rankings. This sports-mad country has consistently produced a wonderful stream of players, with the occasional sprinkling of global superstars along the way – think Karrie Webb, and if you’re a little older, Jan Stephenson.
Webb, the Wizard of Oz, was the undisputed world No 1 in the days before the rankings were formalised (2006 I think). For instance, in 2000, she won nine times (Tiger won 11) and topped $2 million in earnings – no pittance in those days. Her enduring excellence eventually pushed Annika Sorenstam to new heights. In all, Webb won seven major titles and has been a willing mentor and help to many of her young countrywomen trying to forge their way in the game. While still at the height of her powers she would invite some of the best amateurs to be her guests at the US Open where they would stay with her and watch and learn throughout the week. This front-row seat provided invaluable insight for the youngsters into the preparation and focus needed to be successful on the biggest stage of all.
Minjee Lee has benefitted hugely over the years from Webb’s generosity with her time and her knowledge and has put all of that apprenticeship to great use over the last few years. A superlative ball striker from her early days it was Lee’s holing out that was occasionally sub-standard. Well, she appears to have that sorted and holing four consecutive putts of around ten feet in the final round last Sunday made her invincible. If you find yourself anywhere near Muirfield the first week in August I would urge you to find the time to go to the AIG Women’s Open and seek her out. You’ll be in for a treat.
That staging of the 77th US Women’s Open at Pine Needles also showcased women in another role altogether, one behind the scenes and of vital importance. This was the second year of a programme to bring volunteer female agronomists in to join and supplement the regular course maintenance crew at a US Women’s Open venue, having started last year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. David Fruchte, the course superintendent at Pine Needles was delighted to have thirty women from all over the US bolster his team for championship week.
“Getting the women for the whole week is just a huge stress release on me and our staff,” Fruchte said. “They’re all so professional. They know where to go and what to do. The first day was a learning period, getting to know the golf course but since then everything has been really, really smooth. You can’t ask for more than that.”With only 2% of the 19000 members of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America being female it’s an invaluable opportunity for the women to interconnect and see they are not alone in their industry. This programme is set to continue next year at Pebble Beach and hopefully more women will realise there’s a fulfilling career available to them in the golf course maintenance business.
Finally, I mentioned the other week that we were in the summer time frame of clubs hosting captains’ days and I just want to mention a couple of clubs of which I’m a member and the fabulous prizes, in my opinion, sourced by the respective ladies’ captains.
Jan Pomfret, this year’s LC at Delamere Forest took the club emblem, the Delamere horn, and the ladies’ centenary trophy of said horn as her inspiration and created a most beautiful brooch as her prize.
Meanwhile Roma English, native of Islandmagee and LC at Royal Portrush, commissioned the making of a wrought iron putter from part of a cart axle found in a quarry near her home.
Congratulations ladies – two wonderfully innovative prizes with special meaning to the captains as well as the lucky winners.
Finally, (again!) it would be remiss of me not to send every best wish to Elaine Ratcliffe and her Curtis Cup team who take on a formidable American side at the iconic venue of Merion over the next three days. It will be a memorable experience for all those taking part and attending. Enjoy.