Characterized by Annika Sorenstam as “the Master’s of women’s golf,” The Evian Championship is the dream child of Antoine and Franck Riboud, who from the outset envisioned a tournament that would showcase the best of the best among women pro golfers. First played in 1994 as The Evian Master’s, the tournament is played in a magnificent setting, Evian-les-Bains, France, on the shore of Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps, and has achieved the Ribouds’ vision for the players as well as for The Evian fans and afficianados. Stepping up to the 1st tee box takes some considerable work.
Today, co-sponsored by the LET and LPGA Tours, the field for the Evian is composed of 120 players: 1) the top-40 from the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, 2) all active Evian Masters Champions, 3) all winners on the 2013 LPGA Tour so far, 4) all winners on the 2013 LET Tour so far, 5) the Top 5 LET Order of Merit, and 6) Six Evian invitations. The remaining positions in the field after criteria 1 through 6 are applied are filled with the top 2013 LPGA money earners.
We can expect world-class golf from the contenders at The Evian, and we will, as well, to enjoy a panorama of the tournament’s history. The appetite for competition remains keen among les dames d’un certain age, past Evian champions, and this is the playing field to which many return annually for a bit more of that tasty morsel. Keep your eye on these four chicks with winning sticks:
Helen Alfredsson (Sweden), the first Evian champ, flamboyant, glamorous, volatile, 1992 LPGA Rookie of the Year, 8-time Solheim Cup player for Team Europe and 2007 Team Europe captain, will step up to the first tee next Thursday. She’ll play alongside the 2012 defending champion and world-ranked top golfer Inbee Park (South Korea) and 2013 Evian hopefuls Caroline Hedwall (Sweden) and Lizette Salas (USA). The Financial Times of London described Alfredsson’s on-course vocalizations as “louder and more richly worded than Lenny Bruce’s best performances.” Watch out, Tiger! You have competition!
Laura Davies (England), took her swashbuckling game style to The Evian and in 1995 won the trophy and achieved her personal goal to “win on both sides of the Atlantic.” The 1987 US Women’s Open champion, Solheim Cup Team Europe member from 1990 through 2011, Davies is the only golfer to participate in al 12 playings of the Solheim through 2011.
Juli Inkster shot an amazing -21 when she became the first American to win The Evian in 2003. Inkster has won more Solheim Cup matches than any other American players and, still an active competitor, she’s a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. She brings an impressive resume to the first tee: 45 career victories and 213 career top-10 finishes.
World ranked #6, Aussie Karrie Webb held off Laura Davies and the young challenger, Michelle Wie (USA) to win the 2006 Evian champion. The World Golf Hall of Famer, youngest winner of the Women’s British Open (1995), US Women’s Open champ, will be on the playing field at The Evian. Webb, Australia’s most successful woman golfer, mentors young players and is active in shaping the future of the sport. She often takes younger Australian golfers with her to international events and she serves as a player representative on the LPGA Board of Directors. Webb has 39 career victories, the most recent at the LPGA Shoprite Classic in June 2013, and 193 top-10 finishes. She plays superb golf.
Every golfer who takes the tee on Thursday has proved her golf skills and earned the privilege of taking her shot at The Evian championship. Even as we delight in a fresh field of young golfers eager to seize The Evian trophy, honoring past champs is deeply embedded in The Evian tradition. As we watch this tournament unfold, shot-by-shot and round-by-round, I will keep an eye on these women as well as the other past champion who may or may not be contenders for a top slot on The Evian leaderboard: Paula Creamer (USA, 2005), Ai Miyazato (Japan, 2009, 2011), Jiyal Shin (South Korea, 2010). Their presence on the playing field enriches the game even as reminds us that the game of golf is greater than the individuals who play in any given tournament. It is an enduring, timeless exercise in athletic mastery. And I will miss Annika Sorenstam (2000, 2002), Wendy Doolan (2004), and Rachel Hetherington (2001), who have retired from the playing field.
You can enjoy 4 days of The Evian, beginning Thursday, September 12:
Sep 12 – Golf Channel 7:30 AM-12:30 PM ET
Sep 13 – Golf Channel 7:30 AM-12:30 PM ET
Sep 14 – Golf Channel 6:30 AM-11:30 AM ET
Sep 15 – Golf Channel 8:30 AM-12:00 PM ET
Sep 15 – NBC 12:00 PM-1:30 PM ET