There was never a dull moment on the 2004 Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour. From the instant Annika Sörenstam clinched the opening event of the season – the ANZ Masters amid Australia’s Royal Pines – it was clear that it was going to be a watershed year. So what did it mean for you? From Arricau to Bagger, to Davies and Stupples, 2004 provided both entertainment and controversy – could there be a better mix? Claire Middleton from The Daily Telegraph reviews an action-packed 2004 season.
|Sorenstam dominated women’s golf|
The second first-time winner was Sweden’s Cecilia Ekelundh whose final-day battle with Johnson and rookie Linda Wessberg was one to savour. The trio all started the last round on five under par overall but the turning points came at the 11th, when Ekelundh produced a magical bunker shot for a par to Johnson’s bogey, and then promptly chipped in from 25 yards at the 12th having hacked her tee shot out of the pines. Wessberg nipped into second place for a Swedish one-two, with Johnson a disappointed third.
The hat-trick was completed at the Union Fenosa Open de España by Frenchwoman Stephanie Arricau. The first-round lead was shared by three rookies – Brewerton, Nuria Clau, from Spain, and Germany’s Anja Monke, but a second-round 66 hoisted Arricau into contention and she was going well on the final day only to collapse at the final hole when she found the tree, annoyingly placed in front of the green. Four strokes later she was cursing a double bogey, which had opened the door to Gina Scott, from New Zealand, who also finished on nine under par.
|Blomqvist had a breathtaking year|
Arricau struck again in France for her second win of the season, a triumph which kept her in contention for the overall Order of Merit title and which gave the French a wonderful winner on home soil and only the third home winner in the history of the event. The double victory also went down well with her peers, who voted her the Players’ Player of the Year for 2004.
The KLM Open in Holland turned into a German fest as Elisabeth Esterl found a ray of light in an otherwise difficult season. Her form, uncharacteristically, had been up and down – and was to continue that way – but she finished on two under par overall (the only player in red numbers) to hold off Georgina Simpson and Brewerton. Trish Johnson disqualified herself during the final round when well in contention after realising she had taken an illegal drop the previous day.
|Esterl claimed the KLM Ladies Open|
First, though was that impossibly chic stop in Evian where we were wowed by Michelle Wie, applauded Laura Davies’s first-round 64, were impressed by Karen Stupples and her pursuit of Sörenstam, and then stunned by Wendy Doolan’s eventual triumph. While we had our eyes off the ball, Doolan, with a final-round 65, was firmly focused on the first prize and ended up a worthy one-shot winner.
Hot on the heels of Evian came the Weetabix Women’s British Open, and the extraordinary triumph of Karen Stupples. It was not extraordinary that she won – she had already won in America and proved her mettle the previous week in France – just the way in which she did it. She kept her best for last, covering the 18 holes of Sunningdale’s Old Course in 64, which included an eagle-albatross start to her final round for a five-shot margin of victory over Australia’s Rachel Teske. A star was born – in a refreshing, down-to-earth sort of way. It was a shame the BBC failed to do justice to Britain’s first home winner since Penny Grice-Whittaker in 1991, for the broadcasters did not hang on for the official presentation ceremony, instead mocking up a trophy handover next to the famous Oak tree just off the 18th green. So we should salute Stupples here: the only Briton other than Davies and Alison Nicholas ever to win a Major (the Weetabix did not have Major status in Grice-Whittaker’s day).
|Johnson won with a final round 65 in Wales|
The upshot of eight months of toil was an invitation to the Catalonia Ladies Masters where the top 30 contested the last event of the year. In theory, a victory for Johnson could have taken her to the top of the Order of Merit, but, having lost out in Wales, Davies was in no mood to concede that prize to her good mate. In the end, while they concentrated on each other, Karine Icher nipped in with a remarkable display of accuracy and some extraordinary putting. After a fallow couple of seasons, the Frenchwoman is back with a vengeance, and that can only be good for 2005.
Off the course, Karen Lunn from Australia, a veteran member of the LET became the new chairwoman and Mianne Bagger persuaded the Tour to change its rule, which stated their members had to be “female at birth”. Bagger, 37, then became one of 36 players to earn full playing privileges for next season by coming through the qualifying school in Italy and with it create history by becoming the first transsexual woman to become a member of the LET.
So, the stage is set for an enthralling 2005. Never a dull moment in 2004? You ain’t seen nothing yet.