Raising the profile of Ladies European Tour

The surprise victory of Europe in the Solheim Cup and success of men's European golfers can help women's golf to grow.

     Spain's Azahara Munoz lifts the Solheim Cup trophy after Europe's victory in September [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Europe's Solheim Cup win over the United States in September has given the team belief they can triumph as individuals anywhere in the world, said tour chief Alexandra Armas.

    Ladies European Tour (LET) executive director Armas also said the victory by the underdogs in the women's version of the Ryder Cup had attracted extra interest in the circuit.

    "After the Solheim Cup there is belief in our players that they can now win on whatever tour they decide to play," the
    36-year-old Spaniard said.

    "The Solheim Cup showcased the quality of our golf. Some of the rookies on the team, like Dutchwoman Christel Boeljon and Spain's Azahara Munoz, the public might not have heard of before.

    "It has been a challenge because women's golf and women's sport in general doesn't get as much recognition as men's sport"

    Tour chief Alexandra Armas

    "But they have turned round and gone, 'Wow, they can really play under extreme pressure'. That was an eye opener for golf fans and they are keen to see those players again."

    Former tour professional Armas was speaking after officials announced the Ladies British Masters in August would be played at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club, the LET's headquarters, on the outskirts of London.

    The 2012 schedule will feature 24 tournaments in 19 countries but the Spaniard said it had been tough to make the tour recession-proof in recent seasons.

    "It has been a challenge because women's golf and women's sport in general doesn't get as much recognition as men's sport," said Armas.

    "Also in the last few years the economic recession has made things tougher. But even in that difficult environment we've managed to sustain the number of events we have.

    "Of course we would love to have strong growth, more tournaments and increased prize funds. That hasn't been as we
    would have wished but I think we have to be happy with the sustainability we've managed." 

    Power shifts to Europe

    Armas, who took over at the LET in 2005, said the shifting balance of power in men's golf from the U.S. to Europe had been a positive force for the women's game.

    After years of domination by Tiger Woods, the top four places in the men's rankings are now occupied by Britons Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, and Martin Kaymer of Germany.

    "As long as people are talking about golf, that can't be bad," said Armas.

         Europe's Tour chief Armas (R) sees many reasons to be positive about growth of women's golf [GETTY]

    "It's worrying if other sports take over.

    "But from our perspective anything that makes the public more interested and more knowledgeable in the sport and
    increases participation in the game is definitely going to help us, like golf's return at the 2016 Olympics will."

    One major difference in men's and women's golf is evident in the makeup of the leading nationalities in the rankings.

    There is one Taiwanese (number one Yani Tseng), one Chinese, six South Koreans and three Japanese in the women's top-20 while 15th-ranked South Korean KJ Choi is the only Asian representative in the men's list.

    "There is a very different dynamic the men don't have and that's in terms of the strength of Asian golf," said Armas.

    "Golf in Asia is very strong among young women and I'm sure that will happen more and more for the men too over the next 10 years."

    Armas said the target for women's golf officials everywhere, and for the LET especially, was increased television exposure.

    "We need to increase media awareness, TV and player profiles," she said.

    "Getting air time on international television is something we have to continue to work on."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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