It’s that time of year! The start of the 2013 LPGA season is quickly approaching and as we count down the days until the year’s first event, our eyes are focused on “What to Watch” for the upcoming season. So over the next two weeks on LPGA.com, we will take a glimpse at some of the top storylines on the LPGA Tour for 2013. Today’s storyline…Country Pride
A country flag. It’s the first thing you see next to a golfer’s name each week when you pull up an LPGA scoreboard. On Golf’s Global Tour, that flag announces where a player is proud to call home.
Playing for your country and team pride is an opportunity that every athlete relishes. Nowhere is that more apparent than the Solheim Cup, where golfers from the U.S. and Europe proudly don their colors and display the emotion and passion that’s seen so rarely on the golf course. But for many of the world’s best players, the chance to perform for their country on that type of stage had been limited – at least it had been until now.
Last week the LPGA drew great buzz with the announcement of a new biennial, global match play event called the International Crown that will feature teams from eight countries battling for the right to be “Crowned” the world’s best golf nation. The first International Crown won’t take place until July 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore, but the 2013 LPGA season will be the last chance for each country to secure its spot in the inaugural event.
On the Monday after the season-ending CME Group Titleholders in November, those eight countries will be determined based on the combined world ranking of their top four players. That will make for an exciting few months ahead as we see which countries can get in the mix to possibly earn the title as the world’s best golf nation.
So the question becomes: which eight countries will have the honor of competing in the first-ever “Crown”?
While the success of the South Koreans on the LPGA Tour has been well documented, there are a number of other countries who will challenge them for the title.
The Americans proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in 2012. They tied South Korea for the most wins on Tour with eight and Stacy Lewis became the first American in 18 years to win Rolex Player of the Year honors.
Japan currently has two players ranked in the Top 10 of the Rolex Rankings – Ai and Mika Miyazato – while Taiwan boasts the No. 1 player in the world in Yani Tseng. LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb would headline the Australian team, while Spain appears to be a country on the rise in women’s golf with players like 2012 Sybase Match Play champion Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari leading the way.
There are other countries that could also be on the verge of making a global splash in women’s golf – if not in time for the 2014 International Crown then perhaps for the one in 2016 at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago. Last year Shanshan Feng broke through to become the first player from China to record a victory on the LPGA Tour. Moriya Jutanugarn from Thailand won the LPGA’s Final Qualifying Tournament this past December while New Zealand’s 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko became the youngest winner in LPGA history at last year’s CN Canadian Women’s Open.
With so many countries producing talented golfers on Golf’s Global Tour, there’s no question that the race to compete for the title of the world’s best golf nation is certainly going to be fun to watch.