Richard Kaufman looks back on a host of great stories for ladies golf
January 26, 2016, 4:10 pm    

The riveting battle at the top between Lydia Ko and Inbee Park, outstanding rookies and Solheim Cup controversy. Richard Kaufman reflects on a memorable 2015 for ladies golf.
Imagine Jordan Spieth, winning his two majors and five tournaments in total but not doing enough to be the Player of the Year. Well, that was the story for Inbee Park in a memorable season for the ladies game.
How good is Park? Seven majors at the age of 27, with six of them coming in the last three years, is good, but not good enough to be Player of the Year. That accolade on the LPGA Tour was won by a player whose game is very similar to the Korean and who, like Park, won five times in 2015.

Of course, I`m talking about Lydia Ko. Watching Ko and Park, you won`t be parked on the edge of your seat. They don`t overpower golf courses, theirs is a matter of control - of the club and the mind. What a formula it is and what a rivalry it could turn out to be and, while Park has achieved so much, it is the New Zealand teenager who keeps re-writing the history books.
Before 2015, she was the youngest player to win a pro event and then an LPGA event. In the last 12 months, she became the youngest to reach world No 1, the youngest to win 10 LPGA titles, the youngest to become Player of the Year and, most memorably, the youngest to win a major.

Her victory at Evian in September was almost bizarre in the way she seemed so calm. On the verge of another history-making moment, there wasn`t even a hint of a wobble. Ko made it look as if she didn`t have a care in the world as she closed it out with a fantastic 63.
But 2015 on the LPGA Tour wasn`t just about these two players who will potentially go down in the all-time great list. We also witnessed a rookie season like no other, although it`s not really fair to call some of them "rookies". Sei Young Kim was already in the world`s top 40 before coming through Q-School and claiming three of the year`s titles.

She was the best of the bunch, but bear in mind six rookies from the 2015 season are now in the top 25 of the Rolex World Rankings. In Brooke Henderson and Alison Lee, there is talent coming out of North America too.
Ah! Alison Lee. Probably the most memorable story of 2015 in the ladies game - the Solheim Cup. Much was said of all the controversy at the time and I don`t think you need me to cover old ground.

Much of the talk on social media over the first two days was that the event should be coined the Slow-heim Cup, so maybe Suzann Pettersen`s over-competitive instincts kicking in early on the final day wasn`t such a bad thing. Those that suddenly tuned in to see what the fuss was all about saw one of the great comebacks and some inspired play.
Top marks for guts under pressure goes to Gerina Piller in particular, but this was an American team effort, inspired to bring justice to the result when they looked dead and buried. I personally can`t wait for 2017 on American soil to see the impact of the controversy.

The downside to the Pettersen incident was that it took much away from a brilliant European performance over the first two days with two English players at the centre of the team`s excellence. Most of us expected Charley Hull, even in her teenage years, to be a force. But what about Mel Reid? 2015 was the year that a talent re-emerged.
With the help of her friends, family and in particular her coach Kevin Craggs, Reid put in the hard work her talent deserves. Being In Turkey to commentate on her victory in May was wonderful to see. But returning to Germany where her life had been turned upside down, watching her playing her best golf on the biggest stage, that was even better to watch.

The Ladies European Tour may not have the stars of its LPGA counterpart, but this is a Tour trying new things and producing talent too. The Sunday to Wednesday experiment at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open worked and attracted more viewers to Sky Sports and around the world. With so many golf events finishing on a Sunday, the focus was on the Wednesday conclusion and I`m delighted that it will happen again in 2016.
And watch out for those Danes in the coming year. If her form had only come a month earlier then Nicole Broch Larsen would have been a welcome addition to the European Solheim Cup side. The Danish female golfers were some of the standout performers on the LET with teenager Emily Kristine Pedersen and her Rookie of the Year rival and good friend Nanna Madsen pushing each other to great heights.
But sometimes it`s the breakthrough wins after so many near misses that`s the most uplifting.  Beth Allen had six-time Solheim Cup star Sophie Gustafson on the bag as she claimed the tour`s flagship event, the Ladies European Masters, at the age of 33. And watch out for the young lady she pipped by a shot, world amateur No 1 Leona Maguire.

Special mention to the Dame with the Game who was one of my co-commentators at this year`s Solheim Cup. 2015 was the year the R&A finally invited female members, and Dame Laura Davies was deservedly among the first group of names to be asked.
And then in July, Davies was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Although she missed the ceremony itself, delayed flying back from the US Women`s Open, it was deserved recognition for a wonderful career.
2016 will have a lot to live up to.


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