At the end of a successful year for the Ladies European Tour, Sophie Gustafson swept the board with honours after her finest season to date. Gustafson won three events on the 2003 Ladies European Tour including the Ladies Irish Open in association with Bord Failte, the BT Ladies Open in Northern Ireland and the HP Open in front of her home crowd in Sweden.

Stevenson – future star?

Just 18 months ago Stevenson almost endured poverty and penury and had to work in a Perth Hospital, washing dishes and cleaning, to try to raise enough money to realise her dreams of becoming a professional golfer.

The 1999 Australian Amateur champion earned the 19th card at Qualifying school in 2002 and immediately impressed at the Tour’s first event of 2003 when she almost snatched the ANZ Masters in a dramatic finish.

The 25-year-old, who was raised on Australia’s Gold Coast in Queensland, holed a putt form one end of the green to the other on the final hole, forcing Laura Davies to hole from 12 feet to deny the Australian a play off place. Tying for second place and the money that went with it, released Stevenson from any financial worries about playing in Europe and it was an electrifying start to what will surely be a lucrative career.

The rookie year is usually defined as a learning year and travelling around Europe was a big eye opener for this talented Aussie.

Playing in a different country every other week in Europe is never that easy yet Stevenson said she enjoyed the challenge and was looking forward to heading back there in 2004 for another season.

“Some places were a bit tougher than others. The language in some spots was a bit difficult but that goes with the job,” said Stevenson.

“I didn’t have any problem with the food. I didn’t eat anything dodgy and I didn’t get sick, which was important.

“We play a lot of good courses. I really liked Spain and even though we were out in the middle of nowhere when we played there the food and the people were really nice.”

Despite a spectacular start, Stevenson could not improve for the remainder of the year, but solid performances in the Irish Open and the BT Ladies Open secured her rookie of the year title with apparent ease.

“A bit of luck went my way at the Masters but my focus was there and you have to handle the highs and lows.

“I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and everyone goes through slumps at times and if things are like that and you aren’t doing too well at golf then you just have to dig a bit deeper. I’m happy with what I’ve done so far.”

The Ladies European Tour qualifying school is just around the corner and already, record entries have arrived at the Tour headquarters from those wishing to emulate, among many others, these two stars of women’s golf. Proof, if more were needed that 2003 was the “Year of the Woman” in golf and the future is looking brighter than ever for the women’s game, both in Europe and across the globe.