TIMING is everything and there’s no questioning that the success of our major tournaments, and the strength of fields we attract, is largely due to scheduling of these events as the openers on the women’s world golf calendar.
As a result of this, our fields have consistently boasted a few of the world’s top 10 including up to as many as (in 2010) 3 current major title holders, who are eager to get their seasons underway at the popular ALPG Tour events, prior to the commencement of the LPGA schedule which usually follows immediately after.
The other side of this is the fact that a number of at-the-time lesser known players have, over the years, come to play the ALPG Tour events – in some cases as many as four or five weeks – and then gone on to enjoy their most successful seasons on Tour.
Case 1 – American Stacy Lewis. Following a mediocre rookie year in 2009 followed by an improved 2010, Stacy began 2011 with the Women’s Australian Open – where she finished 35th but followed that up with a runner-up finish at the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters the following week. Lewis shot 20-under-par to finish four shots behind world number 1, Yani Tseng and stated that she found “something” that week which provided the confidence boost.
A short time later, Lewis captured her maiden LPGA victory, a major, when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship against the strongest field of the year. Since then she has racked up six top 10 results and currently sits 3rd on the LPGA money list and 11th on the Rolex World Rankings. She told me recently that she will be back in 2012 because she knows how beneficial the tournament play in Australia proved to be. Great courses, great facilities and usually great weather.
Case 2. In early January, we were contacted by Futures Tour Player – Ryann O’Toole who said she had heard such great things about the ALPG Tour’s proam series and tournaments that she would love to come play. All we knew about her was that she featured in the top rating US “Big Break” golf show and that she had won twice on the Futures Tour that year. Of course we welcomed her to our events.
Ryann won a one-day pro-am at Russell Vale ( Wollongong) finished 4th at the NSW Open and then – after we granted her the final invite for the Ladies Masters—went on to play the tournament of her life (to that point) finishing 18-under-par and in 4th place. Her career has blossomed remarkably since she left Australia. A 9th place in the US Women’s Open backed up with a 5th at the Safeway Classic brought much attention to the athletic, highly confident Californian in her rookie year on the LPGA.
Following her result at the Safeway Classic, Rosie Jones announced O’Toole as one of the two Captain’s picks for the US team to compete against Europe for the Solheim Cup in late September. Now, it doesn’t get any bigger than Solheim Cup in the world of women’s golf. Equivalent to the men’s Ryder Cup, ALL Americans aspire to make the Solheim Cup. A somewhat controversial pick, O’Toole was selected over a number of better known and more experienced candidates but I say good on Jones for making such a call. She saw what we here in Australia saw in a young, confident, long hitting, birdie machine who will never be intimidated or overwhelmed by anyone or any situation.
And to think O’Toole’s year began on the ALPG Tour at Branxton and Russell Vale Golf Clubs. Unfamiliar golf clubs/ events which nurtured an unfamiliar name. Until now, that is.