Nicole Broch Larsen: the great Dane
As another year begins on the golfing calendar, it’s a good time to look back and revisit some of the events which made 2015 a great year on the Ladies European Tour.
China’s Shanshan Feng was head and shoulders above the rest when it came to the Order of Merit, wrapping up the title before she even teed up in the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, which she won for a record third time.
However, 2015 was undoubtedly the year of the Great Dane. Nicole Broch Larsen, who finished third on the Order of Merit, progressed from being a winner on the LET Access Series to winning her first full blown LET title at the Helsingborg Open at Vasatorps Golf Club in Sweden in her second year on the circuit. Had it come a month earlier in the Czech Republic, where she finished second, she would have been a shoe-in for the European Solheim Cup team, but her achievements were recognised when she was voted as the ‘Players’ Player of the Year.’
Broch Larsen’s work ethic and results on the golf course also motivated and inspired her compatriots, including Malene Jorsgensen, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Daisy Nielsen. The two young rookies Pedersen and Madsen pushed each other all year until Pedersen finally won the Rookie of the Year award after earning her first LET trophy at the Hero Women’s Indian Open on the extremely challenging Gary Player Course at DLF Golf Club. Nielsen then achieved success by finishing second at the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School in late December.
On the World Rankings, New Zealander Lydia Ko finished 2015 in pole position with three wins from her four appearances in Europe, including becoming the youngest woman to win a Major at the Evian Championship aged 18 years, four months and 20 days.
It was a year of breakthroughs for young and established players alike with eight first time winners of Ladies European Tour tournaments including Broch Larsen, Pedersen, Su-Hyun Oh, So Yeon Ryu, Beth Allen, Hannah Burke and Hye In Yeom.
Australian Su Hyun Oh took the first title of 2015 when she claimed her maiden title at the RACV Ladies Masters at RACV Royal Pines Resort, before Ko took both the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne and ISPS HANDA New Zealand Women’s Open at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch.
Next it was So Yeon Ryu’s time in the spotlight as she collected the individual and team honours representing South Korea at the World Ladies Championship on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in China.
Gwladys Nocera, of France, enjoyed her 14th win at the Lalla Meryem Cup at Golf de l’Océan in Morocco in May. After that, it was back to China for the inaugural Buick Championship, where Feng strode to a six stroke victory at Shanghai Qizhong Garden Golf Club – the first of her two wins in 2015.
It was a joyous return to the winner’s circle for England’s Melissa Reid at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open at Carya Golf Club, where she led from start to finish. The tournament garnered unprecedented media coverage thanks to the LET’s innovative Wednesday finish concept, designed to find a gap in the oversaturated weekend sports TV schedules.
Christel Boeljon triumphed in the Deloitte Ladies Open in her native Netherlands in June. Then, in early July, the popular American Beth Allen earned her maiden trophy in the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters at the LET’s headquarters, Buckinghamshire Golf Club, England: a remarkable achievement aged 33 and in her eighth year on tour.
Australian Rebecca Artis came from six strokes behind Suzann Pettersen to claim her second Ladies European Tour title at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links in East Lothian.
From there, it was on to the Trump Turnberry Resort for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, where South Korea’s Inbee Park became just the seventh woman golfer to win the traditional career Grand Slam, joining an elite group comprising Pat Bradley, Juli Inkster, Annika Sorenstam, Louise Suggs, Karrie Webb and Mickey Wright who have all won at least four different majors.
A top 20 finish for Hannah Burke heralded the start of a golden spell for the Englishwoman, who went on to claim her first LET trophy at the following week’s Tipsport Golf Masters in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
After the Evian Championship in France and Solheim Cup in Germany, there was another debut victory at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France, where Frenchwoman Celine Herbin earned a play-off win over Pedersen at Golf de Chantaco.
Pedersen quickly bounced back to win in India, before South Korean Hye In Yeom claimed the Xiamen International Ladies Open at Orient Golf Club in China. At the Sanya Ladies Open, the fourth stop of the year in China, home heroine Xiyu Lin successfully defended at Yalong Bay Golf Club in tropical Hainan.
After Japan won on home soil at The Queens presented by Kowa, a new team event between the LET, JLPGA, KLPGA and ALPG, Feng completed her hat-trick of Omega Dubai Ladies Masters titles making it 16 different winners from nine countries on the LET in 2015.
On top of this, 17-year-old amateur Aditi Ashok became the first Indian player to win the Lalla Aicha Tour School with a sensational performance in Morocco to top the new class of 2016. Spaniards Nuria Iturrios and Noemi Jimenez Martin, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh, Emily Talley from the USA and German-born Justine Dreher from France all finished within the top 10 places at Final Qualifying.
Watch out for those names in the coming year.