The Evian Championship is a unique Major, situated at one of the world’s most attractive venues in the heart of the French Alps. Despite being granted official major championship status in 2013, the stylish event has lost none of its charm and personality. In fact, it now has more appeal than ever.
Nestled above the banks of glistening Lake Geneva against the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps in the quaint spa town of Evian-les-Bains in Haute Savoie, the Evian Resort Golf Course is among the most picturesque imaginable.
Formerly the Evian Masters from 1994-2012, the golf course was remodelled ahead of its official debut as the women’s fifth major in 2013. One year later, in 2014, the Evian Championship firmly established itself and proved its credentials by being the most richly rewarded across all categories in the ‘Gold Driver Awards,’ effectively the ‘Oscars’ of women’s golf.
An international jury of sports marketing and media experts presented the fifth major with eight awards, including the “Golden Palm,” which recognises the overall experience of a tournament and its communications and creativity. It’s not just the golf course that sets Evian apart. There are a huge raft of non-golfing activities day and night where both Evian Mineral Water and champagne flow abundantly.
Speaking about the awards, Tournament Director Jacques Bungert commented: “It is a very proud moment for all the Evian Resort teams, the Organisation and all our partners, and above all a fantastic boost for our ambition to make the Evian Championship a unique Major.” Over the years, The Evian Championship has constructed its own history, distinctively offering the perfect balance of tradition and innovation whilst respecting golf etiquette.
When Antoine Riboud and his son Franck launched the tournament in 1994, they dreamed of providing a showcase for women champions. Thanks to their passion, the event has become truly global and 2014 exceeded all of their expectations. As Franck Riboud, President of the Evian Championship, said: “The ambition of this tournament is to stand out and to really propose the best showcase of women’s golf. That’s how we work and that’s part of the DNA.”
Part of the appeal of the championship is the ability to stay in the Evian Resort’s two luxury hotels, the five-star Hôtel Royal and four-star Hôtel Ermitage, both of which are located conveniently close to the golf course and have been refurbished to exacting standards. There is also the Manoir du Golf, an elegant seven bedroom residence located next to the Evian Masters Resort Academy, with its state of the art driving range and chipping area, where the world’s best players can be found honing their skills.
A new innovation in 2014 was the introduction of a qualifying tournament, offering the opportunity for any female golfer to earn their way into the $3.25 million USD championship. The first two qualifiers were home grown French talent Ariane Provot and Yan Jing of China, the perfect example of the event’s increasingly global profile. Other recent developments in the tournament’s history include the creation of the Juniors Cup for girls and boys aged 14-15 and the Haribo Kids Cup, for 8-12 year olds.
One of the aims of the organisation is to open the event up to the main stream public and there is a raft of entertainment on offer for spectators, including a world class village with dining and participation activities.
As well as watching the stars of women’s golf, a number of high profile sports and film stars can be seen playing in the pre-tournament Pro-Am. There is also a charity football match where golfers such as Carlota Ciganda and Dame Laura Davies annually take on French international footballers such as Zinedine Zidane.
Deputy Tournament Director Steve Brangeon explained how Riboud initiated the match as a gesture of appreciation to the caddies. “At the time, most of the caddies were British, most of them loved football, so we organised a football game. Since then those that have played include Lorena Ochoa, Laura Davies and many other players.”
In 2014, the highlights included singer and songwriter Mika giving a performance at the gala dinner while Annika Sorenstam presented Michelle Wie with her Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, for the most outstanding performance across all five Majors.
There were storylines aplenty, especially in the first round, when 19-year-old South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim shot an historic low round for any Major. She had 10 birdies in a magnificent 10-under-par 61 and eventually claimed the championship with a winning four-round score of 273, 11 under par. It was her first time playing in a Major, but she had already gained experience of winning on the Korean and Japanese tours.
Despite being caught by former champion Karrie Webb in the final round, Kim managed to make the winning birdie putt on 18 to edge ahead and in doing so, became the third youngest winner of a women’s Major, after Morgan Pressel and Lexi Thompson of the United States. “I was flying like a birdie,” said Kim. “On the 18th hole, putting, I used all my power.”
While the 2006 Evian Masters winner Webb was disappointed to have missed out on her chance to force a play-off, she will once again be among the favourites at this year’s championship, as will the 2013 winner Suzann Pettersen. Webb has described Evian as “one of the most beautiful places in the world,” while Pettersen says, “You wake up every morning and get stunned by the views” – and few would disagree.
The Evian Championship is the only Major played in continental Europe and its location an hour and a half from Geneva airport makes it makes it easily accessible for international visitors. The action gets under way from September 10-13.