Looking at this year’s U.S. Curtis Cup squad, it’s hard to believe that women’s golf in the United States is in trouble. After all, this group includes several players with the potential to be world-beaters. Take a look at world number one Rose Zhang, for example.
According to previous experience, only one or two of the eight players on the Merion lineup will go on to win LPGA tournaments. American Curtis Cup players have won on tour just 11 times in the last 20 years.
A pair of Swedish national coaches were on hand in North Carolina last week for the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, where both amateurs and professionals were catered to. Patrik Jonsson received a call from LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad the week before the event asking for assistance in finding a caddie. Jonsson enlisted the help of five-time LPGA champion Sophia Gustafson, who had recently retired from the game to serve as his caddie. Lindblad finished with a twelfth-place finish.
During the fall and winter, the Swedish national team organizes competition camps in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the south of Spain. A program that was originally intended for amateurs and juniors has grown to include professionals. Arizona has a hub for young athletes, with practice facilities and a community of like-minded dreamers.
If you’re looking for an apartment for a vacation, this isn’t it,” Katarina Vandal says, who heads up all national projects for Sweden. Vision54 co-founder and former Swedish national coach Pia Nilsson once told Golfweek that there is so much golf knowledge available in the United States that young aspiring players don’t know how to get their hands on.
“You’re not taking full benefit of it when there’s too much competition and no sharing,” she remarked. Heather Daly Donofrio, the USGA’s new Managing Director of the new development team for American players — men and women alike – was hired just recently by Whan. Daly Donofrio, a two-time LPGA champion, most recently worked as the LPGA’s Chief Tour Operations Officer.
The NYU Men.
Katie Rudolph, head coach of the NYU men’s and women’s golf teams, believes this is the best thing that could happen for junior golf in the United States right now. “We don’t need any more initiatives.” The time has come to start preparing our children for life after high school.”
Rudolph formerly served as the First Tee of Metropolitan New York’s Chief Operating Officer for ten years before joining NYU. Megha Ganne, who will be competing in her first Curtis Cup this week, has been a longstanding student and student of hers.
There are no rallies for American players like there are for international players at important events, said to Ganne, a freshman at Stanford this year. However, “the other teams have a united force,” according to Ganne. In addition to each other and a coach or assistant, they have people who can provide them with additional information regarding the golf course and practice rounds they are playing. You have to figure out the bare necessities, like where to stay and where to eat, on your own, which is more difficult than you think.”
In his role as LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan had a front-row view to the world’s best female golfers. Since the 1990s, only one American has won LPGA Rolex Player of the Year, Stacy Lewis, while he was LPGA-USGA Girls Golf chairman. Since the Rolex Rankings began in 2006, only three Americans have held the top spot: Nelly Korda, Cristie Kerr, and Jenny Lewis. Paula Creamer was the last American rookie to win Rookie of the Year in 2005.
Shortly after assuming leadership of the USGA, Whan told Golfweek that the country was “embarrassingly past time” for a development program. After all, every other country in the world possesses one. Emilia Migliaccio, whose mother Annika Sorenstam was an elite amateur player on the same Arizona team as Emilia’s, said, “My mom said that’s the one thing holding Americans back.”
Additional resources, especially for those who have the raw talent but lack the financial means, are important, but so is the human element. As Vangdal put it, “everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something. As a teenager, three-time major champion Anna Nordqvist began working with Jonsson on her game. They continue to meet to brainstorm and analyze data. Also, Nordqvist enjoys going to camps with young Swedes in order to pass on her knowledge.
The LPGA’s American.
Migliaccio would like to think that the LPGA’s American players will become more cohesive week-to-week in the future. While she has no immediate plans to become a professional tennis player, she has discussed this issue with her Stanford teammates, Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck, who compete in the Curtis Cup.
“I think you realize how beneficial being on a team is when you get on a team, even if you’re someone who prefers to be alone,” said Migliaccio. “All we’re doing is lifting one another up.” This is something that Rose and Rachel are extremely passionate about. A rookie on the LPGA wants to be able to approach a veteran and feel comfortable asking for advice or playing a practice round when they are the veterans themselves. The dream of playing for a country’s national team need not end this week.