Simon Tees Up at St. Andrews
The co-sanctioned 2007 Ricoh Women’s British Open takes women where they have never played before, as the tournament breaks new ground this week when it is played over the revered Old Course at St Andrews, from August 2nd –5th.
18 year-old Ashleigh Simon is the only South African to represent her country in the august event, and is looking to continue her solid performance seen in last week’s Evian Masters, in France.
It is the first women’s professional championship to be played at the ‘Home of Golf’ and it is also the first time that many of the world’s finest players have ever visited golf’s historic home.
Current World No. 1, Lorena Ochoa from Mexico, starts as the favourite and is aiming to capture her first Major title at the Home of Golf.
Meanwhile Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam is aiming for her 11th Major victory and her 85th worldwide title. “I think it’s a big, big deal,” said Sorenstam, who won the 1990 St Rule Trophy over the Old Course while still an amateur.
“I think it’s a huge step for women’s golf to play at St Andrews, I mean, the history St Andrews has with the men playing The Open there, I think it’s wonderful. It’s an amazing place and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”
Sorenstam completed her career grand slam by winning the championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2003. But she is not the only player in the field to have achieved that feat – so have Juli Inkster of the United States and Australia’s Karrie Webb.
Webb is the only player in history to have completed the Super Career Grand Slam having won all five major championships that have been in existence during her lifetime.
That includes the du Maurier Classic, which was replaced by the Women’s British Open as a major in 2001. Webb also won the Women’s British Open on the one previous occasion when it was played in Scotland, at Turnberry in 2002.
Inkster needs to win this week’s championship to complete the Super Career Grand Slam, while England’s Laura Davies is only one major victory away from entering the LPGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Fame.
Although through the years the Old Course has hosted 26 Open Championships and numerous other professional tournaments, many of this week’s entrants have never played the course.
The defending champion, American Sherri Steinhauer, is one such player. Steinhauer won the tournament for the third time in nine years when she defeated Sophie Gustafson and Cristie Kerr by three shots at Royal Lytham in 2006.
On her first experiences of St Andrews, she said: It’s an amazing feeling to come here to the home of golf. I have to say, I’ve just been in awe of the golf course and the city, and the aura is really magnificent here.
“I think it’s always different from what you see on TV. To actually be on it and see that, really, a lot of the shots are blind shots and being here is completely different than watching it on TV. Everybody who plays golf, everybody should come here at some point.”
This week the women professionals have been granted access to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which is a men’s only club, situated adjacent to the Old Course, which has caused much media attention.
However players including last week’s Evian Masters champion Natalie Gulbis were more interested in the golf course than in the clubhouse.
“I’m a bit confused about the clubhouses. I’ve been to the one off the left, the R&A clubhouse, but it was to register and walk through. It’s beautiful, from just looking at. And it also coming back towards the clubhouse seeing St. Andrews as a backdrop, it’s pretty beautiful,” Gulbis said.
Scotland’s number one player Catriona Matthew didn’t see it as a breakthrough for women’s golf. She said: “There’s really no issue at this course. Ladies play on it and have just as many rights as the men, so it’s really no big deal.
The 2007 Ricoh Women’s British Open promises to be one of the most tightly-contested in the history of the event and the winner will take her place in history on Sunday.