Verchenova is in her last year of studying sports at Moscow State University, but she claims that she was not a sporty youngster.
“I didn’t do other sports. I did a little bit of tennis but not much,” she says. “I did a ballet for 12 years and a little bit of R&B. I wanted to be a dancer when I was a little girl and I started ballet when I was two until 15. Then I started golf and I had to choose. I was doing well in golf and knew it was better for me.
“In Russia golf is a big problem because you just have a few golf courses and then I can’t practise too much because of the distance. I’m not going to spend three hours in a car going to the golf course and three hours going back.”
Verchenova claims she is “the most famous golfer in Russia at the moment” and hopes to help women’s professional golf in Russia develop in a similar way to women’s tennis. Her role model is Maria Sharapova.
“At the moment we are looking at Maria Sharapova, not because of the way she looks but because of the way she plays so great,” says Verchenova. “I think Russian women are strong mentally. They are really trying hard and they are achieving things.”
Like Sharapova, Verchenova loves fashion and looks like a model
at 174cm tall, with long dark hair. She could easily take on the Kournikova label, but prefers to concentrate on her golf.
“At the moment I’m practising a lot and I need to have time for this. I’m just trying to put more attention on the golf to improve myself. I don’t really care about doing lots of modelling and photos. I think you can look good in a photo but you need to look good on the golf course. It’s different. My dad told me I don’t need to look around me, just to concentrate on what I’m doing. I’m still like this and I think it’s good because I’m concentrated on the golf course.”
Verchenova was the poster girl for the inaugural Turkish Ladies Open, because she played at the host course, National Golf Club in Belek, Antalya, many times as a youngster and has a strong relationship with the organisers. She is hoping to adorn more event posters in future, but purely because of her golfing talents.
The quietly spoken pro sees herself becoming the first Russian to win an event on the LET and to top the New Star Money List: “I’m doing lots of work for this and I think I can achieve this.” She would like to do so quickly because there are other Russian players following in her footsteps, including her 15-year-old sister Anna.
Verchenova is not the only Russian touring professional. The Kostina sisters, Maria and Anastasia, from Nakhabino, were invited to represent their country in April’s VCI European Ladies Golf Cup in Spain and the pair finished sixth. The sisters ply their trade on the Duramed Futures Tour in America and Maria was the first Russian player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2007.
With a wealth of golf course development around the major cities in Russia, it seems inevitable that we will see more Russian players on the LET in future.