Last week Women & Golf highlighted some of 2019’s key golfing moments and our favourite highlights. Here’s the second instalment to round off the year...
The Return to Royal Portrush
Almost 70 years after Max Faulkner lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, the Northern Ireland club made history again in 2019 as The Open returned to its fairways - only the second time the event has been held outside of Britain. The venue returned to the rota after first holding The Open back in 1951. And there couldn’t have been a more fitting winner. Ireland’s Shane Lowry made the 68-year wait worth the while, battling the worst weather of the week and closing the tournament at 15-under par - six shots clear - in front of a Sunday sell-out crowd.
Fairytale Finish at the Women’s British Open
Japan’s Hinako Shibuno (pictured below) claimed her first major title - the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn. The 20-year-old finished the tournament at 18-under-par, one shot clear of American Lizette Salas.
A month before the tournament, Mastercard announced their partnership with the AIG Women’s British Open for three consecutive years. The sponsorship extends Mastercard’s presence at The Open and shows their commitment to gender equality in the game - something The R&A were also keen to prove when they increased the total prize fund to $4,500,000 - an increase of 40% from 2018. It’s a long way off what the men earn for their equivalent major, but it’s certainly a swing in the right direction.
Double Major Winner
The 2019 Rolex Player of the Year, Jin Young Ko (pictured below), started the year as she meant to go on. The 24-year-old Korean's first win came at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. A month later, Ko won her first major, the ANA Inspiration, and another major title followed at the Evian Championship. The current World No 1 capped off her stellar season with a final triumph at the Canadian CP Women’s Open. There she became the first player on the LPGA Tour to win a 72-hole event without a single bogey since Inbee Park in 2015, and Ko’s four victories are the most by a single player on the LPGA this season.
Amateur Triumph for Toy
England’s Emily Toy (pictured below) produced the best performance of her career to win the 116th Women’s Amateur Championship at Royal County Down. The 21-year-old defeated New Zealander Amelia Garvey by one hole in the final to become the first English player to win the title since Georgia Hall in 2013.
Hewson Holds Her Nerve
Heading into the final round seven shots off the pace, England’s Alice Hewson (pictured below) battled in spectacular fashion to claim the 2019 title of European Ladies’ Amateur Champion. Hewson carded six birdies and two eagles on the last day at Parkstone Golf Club to force a three-hole play-off with 36-hole leader, Krista Junkkari. The Finnish player missed a six-foot par putt leaving Hewson with a tap-in to claim the trophy on the fifth extra hole.
Players Really Need to Speed up
As for the ongoing issue of slow play, Rory McIlroy (pictured below) made his opinion abundantly clear. “If you want to speed up play, cut the field sizes,” he continued, “It’s like traffic, right? You get 156 in the field, and it’s hard to get those guys around quickly.” Questioned on the same topic at the Solheim Cup, USA Captain Juli Inkster commented, “Yes, it’s painfully slow out there ... It’s a tough golf course. And out here every shot counts. So it’s going to take longer. That’s just the way it is.”
But is that really the answer? Should we be allowing the world's best to set an example that slow play is acceptable? Women & Golf believes we shouldn’t. It’s an issue game-wide that we need to address before the sport can really prosper. As an industry we’re creating quicker formats, shorter courses and simplifying the rules, but if golf can’t shift the reputation of being a slow and (by default) boring game, it’s all pretty much a waste of time. Let’s hope 2020 brings the answer...
Record Crowds Flock to Solheim Cup
Record crowds of more than 90,000 turned out to watch Europe’s spectacular triumph at the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles - making it the highest attended women’s golf event ever held in the UK. In an epic, down-to-the-wire final day, Europe beat the USA by the slender margin of 141⁄2-131⁄2.
With just two matches left on the course, the Americans led by just one point. With two birdies in her last three holes, European rookie, Bronte Law, levelled the score after winning her match 2up against Ally McDonald. As the final match betweeen Suzann Pettersen and Marina Alex reached the par-5 18th, the pair were all-square. Alex’s birdie putt slipped away, leaving Pettersen to step up to the plate. And that she did. With nerves of steel, Pettersen holed an eight-foot putt for birdie and cinched the all-important point to claim the trophy for Europe – the first time since 2013.
World Handicap System set for 2020
Governing bodies of amateur golf in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales have all signed the license for the new World Handicap System. Set to come into operation on 2 November 2020, WHS will replace the current Golf Handicapping System maintained by CONGU and will unify the six different handicapping structures currently in operation.
For the first time, handicap systems everywhere will be substituted by a global system that allows golfers to obtain and maintain a handicap on any course around the world. It means that golfers will be able to compete or play casually on a fair and equal basis.