We look back at a year of youth and diversity, when 14 different golfers, with an average age of 22, were crowned as tournament champions on the Ladies European Tour.
THE NEW GUARDS
There were eight first-time winners on the LET in 2017 including Hae Rym Kim, Klara Spilkova, Atthaya Thitikul, Mi Hyang Lee, Cristie Kerr, Camille Chevalier, Céline Boutier and Angel Yin. This included a new generation of golfers representing the major golfing continents of the world. There were three teenaged winners: Atthaya Thitikul from Thailand, 14, Angel Yin of the USA, 18 and Aditi Ashok from India, 19. Two young French players, Camille Chevalier and Céline Boutier, also asserted themselves in their rookie year, identifying themselves as part of the exciting new guard.
A new tournament, The Ladies European Thailand Championship at Phoenix International Golf Club in Pattaya, produced a major global story. The outrageously talented 14-year-old amateur Atthaya Thitikul triumphed to become the LET’s youngest champion in history, ending two strokes ahead of Ana Menendez from Mexico, who would take the first prize money. However, Atthaya would gain entry to the two European Majors: the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Evian Championship: two experiences that money can’t buy and we can expect to see much more from the young star in the future.
England’s Georgia Hall, 21, showed incredible consistency to record four top-four finishes, including joint third place at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, to win the LET Order of Merit and her season was recognised by her peers who voted for her as Players’ Player of the Year. Georgia was one of Europe’s brightest stars at The Solheim Cup, earning two points on her debut and is only at the beginning of her career.
The Solheim Cup was the highlight of the LET calendar in 2017 and Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa, USA, produced huge galleries and a record attendance of almost 125,000 people. Juli Inkster’s US side may have earned their stripes but Annika Sorenstam’s team were Europe’s stars. Several records were smashed on and off the golf course, including merchandise sales, viewing figures and more than 1 billion potential impressions on social media. Sunday produced the most watched women’s sport event in eight years on NBC.
GREATEST RECOVERY AND COMEBACK
Anna Nordqvist made a strong start to the year with a tie for second at the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open in Spain, but only two months before the Evian Championship in France, the 30-year-old Swede had been put on bed rest due to battling glandular fever. Determined to prepare for The Solheim Cup, she returned to competition at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns and tied for seventh. Despite lacking energy, she then put in one of the most memorable performances in Solheim Cup history with a fierce singles match against Lexi Thompson. Fast forward another four weeks and Nordqvist turned up to The Evian with few expectations, but after entering the final round two strokes back, she carded two eagles in a final round of 66 to tie with Brittany Altomare on nine-under-par and then won a play-off in torrential rain to claim her second Major.
THE FUTURE CHAMPIONS
Among the contenders for those to watch in 2018 are the global stars who achieved success in Europe in 2017. We can expect more from established athletes such as Anna Norqvist, Carlota Ciganda, Mel Reid, Florentyna Parker and Azahara Muñoz who proved their skill and made a name for themselves at the top of their sport, as well as from the likes of Klara Spilkova, Aditi Ashok, Camille Chevalier, Céline Boutier and Casey Danielson, who showed their ambitions with authoritative performances in 2017. Georgia Hall’s season was so full of promise that it would be heart-warming to see her realise her potential with a first victory and there is plenty more to look forward to in the LET’s 40th year of celebrating women’s professional golf in 2018.