South Korean players match Americans 31-31 in the field for the final women’s major of the year and, at the current rate, will soon outnumber them by far.
Although American players dominated women’s golf for decades until the arrival of European stars such as Annika Sorenstam and Australia’s Karrie Webb, the last two majors on the US LPGA Tour have gone to players from Taiwan and South Korea.
And Inbee Park of South Korea and Yani Tseng of Taiwan, both 19, became the youngest winners of the US Women’s Open and US LPGA Championship respectively.
The emergence of young stars from a seemingly unstoppable production line of talent suggests it won’t be long before there is an Asian Grand Slam.
And it’s not just South Korea. There are several more stars emerging from Taiwan, too, and Suzann Pettersen, last year’s US LPGA Championship winner, wonders what will happen when China gets a grip on women’s golf.
“It’s just crazy how many Asian players come out at such an early age and come out and play great golf,” she said on the eve of the Women’s British Open, which started yesterday at Sunningdale. “It’s unbelievable. They are 18-year-olds, fearless, just play their game. They go out and they win, it’s just unreal.”
“I’m 27 and I kind of feel old. I don’t know what the other players out there feel, but it’s just amazing,” Pettersen said.
South Korean and Taiwanese players won six out of seven US LPGA tournaments in a row leading up to this championship and Pettersen says they start playing at a very early age.
“It’s their culture, especially in Korea,” she said. “They start from when they are aged seven, eight, nine. I think if you start at age 14 now, too late, sorry. Everyone at that age is far ahead of you if you come from Asian countries.”
“At the same time, we can learn from that. I think it’s a good way, a good structure. In such a technical sport like golf the earlier you start the better. They actually got the point there, they had a head start,” Pettersen said.
Pettersen believes that China could also become the dominant nation.
“Just imagine when China starts playing golf,” she said. “There’s only one Chinese girl here now. If one percent of China starts playing golf, that’s 60 million.”