It is one thing to leave the most interesting thing until last; quite another to leave it out altogether. When details of the Aramco Team Series first went out to the media, only the UK’s National Club Golfer made a thorough enough examination of the announcement to uncover what should have been the headline.
Namely, that the lone amateur in the team could win – or lose – the event for his or her professionals.
Now, thanks to what happened in New York in the third of the Aramco Series events, that lost gem has well and truly come to the fore. Though Team Jessica Korda won the event, it was the 7-handicap amateur in the group who holed the putt which made it possible.
Alexandra O’Loughlin, a social-media correspondent, was the amateur in question. First she had a putt for an eagle on the home green, which would have won the $90,000 winners’ loot outright for her three professionals – Korda, Karolin Lampert and Lina Boqvest. Next – and just imagine it – she left herself with a 4-footer for birdie to force a playoff.
Though nerves had not plagued O’Loughlin before, they certainly caught up at that point. However, as one with 10,000 followers on Twitter, this outgoing soul was up to the task, slotting the putt before leaving the playoff in the hands of Korda. The latter defeated Sophia Popov, the winner of the 2020 AIG Women’s Open, at the first extra hole.
“It was a terrific event and, as we’ve been told, it’s here to stay and the girls could not have embraced it more fully. The Aramco people have made an incredible investment in women’s golf.” – Vicki Cuming
The pace of play had been so slow as to have the playoff taking place under a night sky. But there was even an upside to that fiasco as the stars of the show – they otherwise included Charley Hull, who won $60,000 as the leading individual – shone more brightly than ever. Small wonder the Aramco people are heading for their fourth and final event in this year’s series – from 12-14 November in Saudi Arabia – confident in the knowledge that they have a success story on their hands.
Vicki Cuming, who manages Hull and Georgia Hall, might well have been as many another in not getting her head round the formula had she not gone over to the Glen Oaks Clubs in Westbury on Long Island. “Once you were there,” she said, “you only had to watch a hole or so to realize that it was all quite simple. It was a terrific event and, as we’ve been told, it’s here to stay and the girls could not have embraced it more fully. The Aramco people have made an incredible investment in women’s golf.”
Meghan MacLaren, the English golfer who is currently playing on the Symetra Tour where she won this year’s Prasco Charity championship, has on several occasions withdrawn from playing in Saudi Arabia because of concerns over the Kingdom “sportswashing” its human-rights record. Her stance has been much admired but, across the years, professional golfers have even been known to go into war zones – Qatar at the beginning of the Gulf War to cite just one example – in pursuit of prize money and appearance fees.
Away from the rights and wrongs of playing in Saudi, the women have been appreciating how the Aramco Team event offers a change of pace from the many full-on tournaments on their schedule.
Interestingly, Peter German, the executive tournament director at the Dunhill Links championship for 36 years, has confirmed that the men of today like the Dunhill for much the same reason. “There used to be a certain resistance to the Dunhill,” said German. “But the way things are now, they can’t wait to team up with their sponsor or with a family member. As for the amateurs, the waiting list to play gets longer every year.”
Apparently, the amateurs have to send a letter for consideration by a committee. In other words, it’s not too different a rigmarole to that attached to joining one of the world’s premier golf clubs.
Hull attributed rather more than her own skills to her closing 65 at Glen Oaks. On the one hand, she did not enjoy how long the rounds were taking. But on the other, she loved having time to catch up with her two LET playing companions, Annabel Dimmock and Stacy Lee Bregman, during the delays. And no less did she enjoy the company of Christopher Kirchner, the group’s amateur and the founder and CEO of Slync.io, the new title sponsor of the men’s Dubai Desert Classic.
This was Kirchner’s first tangle with the women’s game, and he had a ball being a part of Team Hull’s friendly and talented crew.
Heaven knows how many LPGA tournaments have been held on this side of the Atlantic over the years, but this was the first time the LET were pitching camp in the US.
Literally no less than metaphorically, their circuit is finally going places.
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