Minjee wins in France, Annika’s return to major golf — Interview with Anya Alvarez — Must-click women’s golf links

The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, July 29, 2021

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A review, a mixed-gender event, and a chance

There’s so much to talk about in women’s golf right now that it’s hard to pick a single subject. That sentiment is one that’s often expressed with Golf Thursday, but it’s absolutely the truth. Let’s kick off this week with a review, shall we?

The season’s fourth major wrapped up on Sunday at the Amundi Evian Championship in dramatic fashion, now par for the course (pun intended!) for the biggest events in the women’s game. Minjee Lee came from seven shots back firing a 7 under 64 to force a playoff with Jeongeun Lee6, which the Australian ultimately won with a birdie on the first extra hole.

It was the first major championship victory for her, surprising because she’s been a stalwart of success on Tour for the last few years, winning at least once every year she’s competed, excluding 2017 and 2020. When asked what the title meant to her, Lee admitted that it was hard to qualify such a momentous, long-awaited occasion. 

“I’m speechless,” Lee said in her winning press conference. “I have been waiting for this for so long. It just feels unreal to have won. I played really well to get myself in that position, and I’m just really happy.”

A first-timer has hoisted the trophy in 14 of the last 15 majors, with Lee becoming the ninth in a row to do so. She now will be teeing it up in Tokyo with her sights set on Olympic glory and one has to believe that the positive momentum that she’ll be carrying with her from France to the Games could propel Lee to the podium. Nothing like a major win to boost your confidence. 

The LPGA Tour remains in Europe this week with the ISPS Handa World Invitational taking place at Galgorm Golf Club in Northern Ireland. It’s another mixed-gender event featuring competitors from the Ladies European, LPGA, and European Tours and will see a men’s and women’s event played at the same time on two separate courses for equal prize money.

While the field isn’t as stacked as it could be with many players already traveling to the Olympics, the tournament still features Solheim Cuppers like Georgia Hall, Charley Hull, and Bronte Lew plus LET regulars like Alice Hewson who made some noise at the Scandinavian Mixed last month, and even college standouts like Jennifer Kupcho and Olivia Mehaffey who’s making her professional debut. 

And to top it all off, Amy Bockerstette, the young woman with Down syndrome who has risen to international fame the last two years for her incredible personality and inspiring resiliency, got to play in the pro-am, meet Niall Horan, and hit the ceremonial first tee shot. Her involvement instantly makes the tournament that much cooler so the ISPS Handa World Invitational is one to be keeping your eye on for sure and would be a stellar breakout victory for a young gun still looking to make their mark.

While the LPGA Tour is in Northern Ireland, it’s their older counterparts making headlines at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. The event is being held at Brooklawn Country Club, site of the 1979 U.S. Women’s Open won by Jerilyn Britz, who is playing this week. The field is loaded with impeccable players, including the GOAT herself, Annika Sorenstam.

It’s the 50-year-old’s first time teeing it up in the championship after it was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, while she’s excited to be back playing, the expectations of her game are very much tempered. With kids and a successful ANNIKA Foundation to worry about, time to practice can be hard to come by, but you can be sure that there is still a fire for competitive golf that will never leave Sorenstam’s psyche.

“My game is not really the same, but I feel as good as I can be at this age and what I do in my life,” said Sorenstam. “Golf has been in addition to what I do, it hasn’t really taken anything away, so you can imagine the days are quite packed, and I try and do most of what I’ve got to do with an hour here and two hours there. 

“But as far as my competitive drive, certain things don’t go away. I am competitive, and of course, I’m going to do my best out there.”

Her best so far is a 5 under 67 highlighted by six birdies and with a hot start like that, the dream scenario of Sorenstam lifting the trophy come Sunday has become that much more realistic. Playing at just 5,981 yards, Brooklawn is very much a gettable course for someone who still hits it as long and as straight as Annika and a low round out of the gate spells promise for the Swede’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open debut. 

Like everyone always says, it’s just one round and it’s only Thursday. The conditions will get harder as is the USGA’s way in their signature championships so let’s not put the cart before the horse.

But, as the classic line from Dumb and Dumber goes, you’re telling me there’s a chance. And that’s all anyone can ask for.

This week in women’s golf

(Reminder: First: the underlined words are the links. Second: CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers, and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! sarahkellamgolf@outlook.com.)

The U.S. Senior Women’s Open is full of storylines to follow this week. (via Golfweek.com)

Annika is back playing major championship golf at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (via Golfweek.com)

Annika Sorenstam is playing in her first USGA event in 13 years. (via GolfDigest.com)

82-year-old JoAnne Carner is the oldest player in the field at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (via Golfweek.com)

The Solheim Cup and Curtis Cup captains are paired together at Brooklawn for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (via LPGA.com)

It’s the first senior women’s event for both Catriona Matthew and Pat Hurst, the 2021 Solheim Cup captains. (via USGA.org)

Here are three things you need to know about this week’s senior major championship. (via USGA.org)

The U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be heading to Ohio for its next edition. (via Golfweek.com)

NCR Country Club will be hosting next year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open. (via USGA.org)

Here’s a full breakdown of the field that’ll be teeing it up at Brooklawn. (via GolfChannel.com)

Brooklawn is a Tillinghast design and the history of the course shows in its architecture. (via USGA.org)

Stephanie Meadow’s Drive On story. (via LPGA.com)

ASU’s Olivia Mehaffey makes her pro debut this week in Northern Ireland. (via LPGA.com)

Georgia Hall is prioritizing the European swing on her calendar this season. (via LPGA.com)

The ISPS Handa World Invitational is an opportunity for three of the world’s best tours to showcase the talent of their players. (via LPGA.com)

Olivia Cowan is taking the confidence of a solid season so far with her to Northern Ireland. (via LPGA.com)

Here’s how to watch the ISPS Handa World Invitational. (via LPGA.com)

Minjee Lee captured her first major title at the Amundi Evian Championship. (via LPGA.com)

Minjee Lee nabs her first major after beating Jeongeun Lee6 in a playoff. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Minjee Lee wins her first major championship in France at the Evian. (via Golfweek.com)

Minjee Lee is now eligible to win the ANNIKA Rolex Major Award. (via LPGA.com)

A birdie on the first hole of a playoff propelled Minjee Lee to a win at the Amundi Evian Championship. (via GOLF.com)

Australia’s Minjee Lee is a major champion at last. (via GolfChannel.com)

More on Minjee Lee’s win at the Evian. (via GolfDigest.com)

Yealimi Noh is taking away a lot of positives from her week at the Evian. (via LPGA.com)

Noh is riding the positive momentum from her solo third finish at the Amundi Evian Championship. (via GolfChannel.com)

After a traumatic slow play penalty earlier this season, Yealimi Noh is working hard to put that behind her. (via GolfDigest.com)

Leona Maguire fired a 61 in the final round of the Evian, a score her younger self would’ve appreciated. (via LPGA.com)

Leona Maguire matched the lowest round ever in a major with a 61 on Sunday in France. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Another 61 was shot at the Evian, this time by Ireland’s Leona Maguire. (via Golfweek.com)

Here’s the payout breakdown for the Amundi Evian Championship. (via GOLF.com)

Three amateurs made the cut at last week’s major championship. (via GolfChannel.com)

Jeongeun Lee6 fired a 61 at the Evian, tying the lowest round in a major to date. (via Golfweek.com)

A record-tying 61 was shot at the Evian last week by Jeongeun Lee6 the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion. (via GolfDigest.com)

Lydia Ko has found some balance in golf and life. (via LPGA.com)

Golfweek is predicting who will stand on the podium for the Olympic golf competition. (via Golfweek.com)

Mariajo Uribe is the only mom in the Olympic field and is proud to be competing again for her native Colombia. (via LPGA.com)

Here are some players to watch and storylines to follow at next week’s Olympics. (via GolfChannel.com)

Gaby Lopez helped carry the Mexican flag for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. (via Golfweek.com)

LPGA Tour winner Gaby Lopez carried the flag for Mexico at the Olympic opening ceremony. (via GolfChannel.com)

A celebrity match has been added to the schedule for Solheim Cup week. (via LPGA.com)

The latest edition of “Beany’s Blog”. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Here’s how everything stands for Solheim Cup qualification. (via GolfDigest.com)

Amy Bockerstette got to meet Niall Horan and it was just as cool as you’d guess. (via LPGA.com)

Nelly Korda bought a gaming laptop to keep her mind off golf. (via GOLF.com)

Paula Creamer has announced that she’s pregnant and will return to play after having her child. (via Golfweek.com)

Get an inside look at the game of Stacy Lewis with her coach Joe Hallett. (via LPGA.com)

Angel Yin is now working with by Modest! Golf Management. (via LPGA.com)

The latest Race to the Card update. (via SymetraTour.com)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been named as the presenting sponsor of the Carolina Golf Classic. (via SymetraTour.com)

Here’s a preview of the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. (via SymetraTour.com)

Lilia Vu captures her second Symetra Tour title at the Twin Bridges Championship. (via SymetraTour.com)

Here’s what’s in the bag of Lilia Vu. (via SymetraTour.com)

Here’s what you need to know about the latest Symetra Tour winner, Lilia Vu. (via SymetraTour.com)

Rachel Rohanna notches back-to-back runner-up finishes in her last two starts. (via SymetraTour.com)

Here’s what to watch for at the ISPS Handa World Invitational. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Atthaya Thitikul is hoping for more success after a solid showing at the Amundi Evian Championship. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Alice Hewson is looking forward to be a part of another historic event at the ISPS Handa World Invitational. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

More stars will be teeing it up in the next edition of the Aramco Team Series in Sotogrande, Spain. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

La Manga Club is now the host for LET Qualifying School. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Needing to win to have a chance to qualify for the Solheim Cup, Matilda Castren comes in clutch, capturing the Gant Ladies Open title. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Matilda Castren is now an LET member with her win at the Gant Ladies Open and that could mean a Solheim Cup berth in September. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

HotelPlanner is now a Ladies European Tour partner. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Final round notes from the LPGA Professionals National Championship. (via LPGA.com)

Second round notes from the LPGA Professionals National Championship. (via LPGA.com)

First round notes from the LPGA Professionals National Championship. (via LPGA.com)

Kingsmill Resort played host to the LPGA Professionals National Championship. (via LPGA.com)

Rose Zhang, among other notable amateurs, has qualified for the Curtis Cup team. (via Golfweek.com)

Alexa Pano has decided to tee it up at Q-school. (via Golfweek.com)

Marissa Wenzler took home the Women’s Western Amateur title. (via Golfweek.com)

The European Junior Solheim Cup has been selected. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)

Tweets of the Week

Five at The IX: Anya Alvarez, Former LPGA Tour professional, Writer, Producer

How did you get involved in golf?

I grew up playing golf as soon as my dad could put a club in my hand. He was the head pro at a course that at the time was named Gallup Municipal in Gallup, New Mexico. If I wasn’t playing with our dogs, I was on the golf course. I just loved the game, and it brought me a lot of joy. I was also competitive as a kid, and golf gave me the opportunity to compete against myself.

What has inspired you to continue working in the game and in women’s athletics in general?

I just love sports, and I particularly love how sports can help build confidence in women, and open doors for them that otherwise would be closed. I wouldn’t be who I am without golf, and I want women to have the same opportunities I had to be part of something that frankly changed my life. 

Why is it so important to you to use your platform to advocate for women’s athletics? 

Sports are a microcosm of society. If there’s inequality in sports for women, that means there’s inequality for women generally. But I also want men to see powerful women excelling in things that they generally would only expect men to excel in. if we can position women athletes to be inspirational not just to women and little girls, but to men and little boys, we can hopefully change the perception that women can’t be inspiring beyond their own gender and garner more respect from men. 

In your opinion, what needs to change in golf for it to become more inclusive for women and minorities? What experiences have you had over the course of your time in the game that fuel your desire to help change it?

There are a lot of initiatives to get women and POC to play golf, but not enough initiatives or groups advocating for women or POC to work in the industry. If the industry mainly stays male and pale, it won’t matter how many diversity committees you organize, nothing will change. Disenfranchised groups need to see themselves and actually know people who work in golf for it to seem like a welcoming space for them. If every club you walk into only has white men working there, I find it hard to believe that you’re going to feel inspired to work in golf. Luckily for me, I grew up believing that I belonged in golf because my dad never treated me differently and was a huge fan and history buff of the LPGA. I never felt othered because I cemented my place on the course early on. But I have witnessed what has happened to women in golf, and have heard from many female friends of mine starting out in the game who have felt treated differently, which has discouraged them from playing golf. My hope is that I can change the industry so that women who don’t have the same foundation I did know that they belong no matter what. 

What have been some of your favorite memories over the course of your golf career, from junior golf to your professional career to your time on Big Break?

My favorite memory in junior golf is when I had a dream when I was 13 years old while playing in the New Mexico State Junior Championship. I played terribly the first day and was 11 shots behind from first place. I had a dream the night before the second round that I shot 11 shots better than I did the first round and that I won the tournament. Well, I literally did that and ended up in a play-off and won the State Championship.

My favorite memory as an adult is when my dad caddied for me in my third attempt to qualify for the LPGA at Qualifying School. With him on my bag, I earned my tour card, and it was a really special moment for both of us because it all came full circle. He was the one that first put a club in my hand, and he probably dreamt of me playing on the LPGA just as much as I did. To be able to have him see my dreams come true and him play such an important role in that process was just incredibly meaningful.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam, LPGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Sarah Kellam