The curtain has come down on the 2001 Evian Ladies' European Tour, but already we are clamouring for more from the great young trio that have done so much to raise the profile and enhance the image of women's golf over recent months.
Norway's Suzann Pettersen (pictured), France's Karine Icher and Spain's Paula Marti, all in their early 20s, collected five of the 16 titles on offer and finished second, third and sixth respectively on the Order of Merit.
Pettersen, the French Open winner, was rewarded for her tremendous consistency by winning the Bill Johnson Rookie of the Year award, while Icher won the German and Dutch Opens, and Marti heads for a summer at home
in Barcelona as the Italian Open and British Masters Champion.
Already, the threesome are tipped to make their Solheim Cup debuts when Europe defends the trophy at Interlachen in Minnesota next year, while, just as importantly, they are recognised as the presenters of a great new modern face for the women's game.
This year, the bubbly Marti has posed in her lingerie for the News of the World, while Pettersen's extreme confidence has helped attract extra column inches.
In her native Norway, the 20-year-old has become a well-known face. In fact, during last week's Biarritz Open - the final event of the year - a Norwegian television crew was putting the finishing touches to a
documentary on the new young superstar.
'Suzann is the new young sports heroine in Norway,' explained Henrik Faerevaag, the show's producer who has attended numerous events all over Europe this year.
'She's greatly admired, but she's also quite outspoken so she also has her detractors. But, certainly, almost everyone will have heard of her.'
Icher, heading a long list of young French talent, is a quieter type, but still overflowing with confidence, while Marti is the pencil slim friend of Sergio Garcia with a typically Latin temperament. She's an attractive young girl who always seems to have a smile on her face.
For Scot Dale Reid, the prospect of having all three as newcomers in her Solheim team holds no fears.
'They have all proved they have the game and the temperament to compete at the top level, and I'll be delighted if they all make the team through the automatic selection places,' she said.
Heading into the winter break, they are lying second (Icher), third (Pettersen) and fifth (Marti) in the Solheim Cup table. When the selection period ends next September, the leading seven will be assured of a spot in the 12-strong side.
The arrival of these new faces has been a huge blessing for the Evian Tour that started this year on the wrong foot when a number of tournaments
were cancelled, including the Scottish Open.
But, already, there is talk of 2002 events in Norway and Spain, a country that has also suddenly become aware of women's golf through the exploits of Order of Merit winner, Raquel Carriedo.
In fact, the good news emanating from the headquarters is that next year's circuit will be much bigger and much better. No-one is making wild predictions, but the hope is that at least another two or three tournaments will be added to the 15 that made up the Order of Merit this year.
Tim Howland, who has guided the Tour for the last three years, stepped down as chief executive on the eve of Biarritz, but it has been a smooth handover to his World Sport Group colleague, Robin Gibson, and Ian Randell, the current Tour Director of Operations.
The pair will be working hard over the next few months in finalising a 2002 schedule that is expected to be announced at the beginning of December. What we do know is that the circuit will kick off with the Australian Masters in the middle of February - and that Petteresn, Icher and Marti will again be providing the focus of interest.
|| 4 - OCTOBER 2001