There’s been history made in this sport of ours in the last week and I’m not sure things will ever be the same again.
No, I’m not talking about the LIV Golf Invitational that occurred just outside London last week. I’m talking about welcoming the first ever female winner on the DP World (formerly the European) Tour. I’m talking about real golf – proper golf, proper sport. To be really meaningful to the participants and the fans, sport has to be competitive.
Thankfully, over this never-to-be-forgotten weekend there was an abundance of proper stuff to watch. We only had to swivel our gaze towards Halmstad Golf Club in Sweden where 78 DP World Tour members and 78 Ladies’ European Tour (LET) members were competing in the co-sanctioned Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed hosted by Annika Sorenstam and Henrik Stenson. This is the second iteration of this event – Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell was crowned the inaugural champion last year.
This time it was the turn of the women to triumph. A mesmerising display of power and precision from Linn Grant, a pro for a mere 10 months, left such stalwarts as Stenson and Marc Warren floundering nine shots adrift. It was a dominating performance from beginning to end as she cruised round in a best of the day 64 to finish on 24 under par.If you hadn’t heard of Grant before this week you will get plenty of opportunity to learn all about her now. She will be 23 next week and hails from Helsingborg but her Scottish roots and connections run deep. Her grandfather, Jimmy, lived in Inverness and won the Scottish Boys’ Championship at North Berwick golf club in 1958. Little did he know then that in later life he would emigrate to Helsingborg and have a son, John, who went on to become a professional golfer, winning seven times on senior tours in Sweden.
When John’s daughter, Linn, was born in 1999 she soon developed the family love for the sport and in 2017 won the British Women’s Amateur Strokeplay Championship at, believe it or not, North Berwick, the very scene of her own granddad’s championship win.
At this stage I have a rather bizarre fact to share. The Inverness home that Jimmy grew up in, and emigrated from, was next (and still is) occupied by another pedigree golfing family, namely the Stewarts. Gillian, one of my oldest friends, grew up in the self-same house and went on to become one of Scotland’s finest professionals, winning four LET events including the European Open as an amateur. Brother Mike is also a very useful player and has carved a career in the game having spent most of his working life with the DP World Tour.
Strange but true. They often say there must be something in the water – in this case I think it’s more a case of there being something in the bricks and mortar.Make no mistake, as far as Linn is concerned this will be no flash in the pan. She has a pedigree amateur record, which includes numerous European titles as well as four wins when playing for Arizona State University. She also rose to the No 2 spot in the women’s amateur world rankings.
And now she has notched her sixth and most significant win since joining the paid ranks. Under her belt are three minor tour victories, two LET wins and this co-sanctioned triumph which, incidentally, comes with a two-year exemption on the DP World Tour.
Ryder Cup captain and tournament host Stenson was playing in the group ahead of Grant on the final day and commented, “Every time I looked back she was in prime position and just gave herself birdie chance one after another, I would imagine. So, there wasn’t much I could do against a player like that.”Tim Barter, veteran broadcaster and commentator for Sky Sports and always worth listening to, summed the week up thus: “One of the most remarkable performances I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been around the tour.”
Since the Swedes began taking their golf seriously back in the 1980s their approach has always been innovative, inclusive and non-limiting. They have been leaders in so many different ways and are undoubtedly improving the sport on multiple fronts.
Pity that isn’t the goal of everyone in positions of influence.