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A late but impressive start
While Norway's Suzanne Pettersen, France's Karine Icher and Spain's Paula Marti were hitting the headlines as the star rookies on the Evian European Tour this year, it was Becky Morgan who was flying the flag as the new face of British women's golf on both sides of the Atlantic.

In a year when Celtic Manor held off the opposition from Scotland and England in the battle to stage the 2010 Ryder Cup, Becky, from Abergavenny, made her own significant contribution to promoting golf in Wales.

The modest two-time Curtis Cup player made her mark in her sparse appearances in Europe by just losing out in a play-off to Pettersen for the French Open, and another highlight was finishing in the top-10 in front of her own fans at the WPGA Championship of Europe at Royal Porthcawl.

Stateside, she finished runner-up to South Korea's Hee-Won Han for the Rookie of the Year award, and she managed to upgrade her conditional card to full exempt status by taking 82nd on the final money list with $101,955.

After such an outstanding season, it was little wonder that she is now looking forward to having along winter break, and a decent holiday.

Lying back on some sun-drenched beach, she will be able to reflect on a great end to a first year as a professional that had started so sadly. It was at last year's Evian Tour school, which Becky was leading by five shots at the halfway stage of the qualifying at Aroeira in Portugal that her mother, Jenny, very sadly lost her battle against cancer while on holiday in Malta.

Her father, Gwynne, and Becky's heartbroken twin sister, Rachel, faced an agonising decision. 'We debated whether to tell her or not, but eventually decided she had to know,' said Gwynne. 'I know it was really hard for her, but she stuck it out over the last two rounds, and we were very proud.'

For Becky, there was the consolation that she knew her mum would have been right behind her. In fact, it was Jenny's father, Phil Harris, who was instrumental in instilling Becky's interest in a game in his role as junior convenor at his grand-daughters Monmouth Club.

Now 27, Becky was a relatively late convert to the pro ranks. 'But I wanted to win all the major amateur team honours and, also, I didn't really think I was ready,' she explained. 'I'm a little older than most of the rookies but I think it has helped me adapt more easily to the new lifestyle.

'I don't mind all the travelling, even going to and fro to America, and another reason I feel I have switched reasonably easily is that I have
always preferred strokeplay.

'And I really do like it our here in the US. Everyone on Tour has been very friendly and this is where all the best players compete and where there is the greater strength in depth. But I've also enjoyed my trips back to Europe. There' not quite so much pressure and, again, everyone has been very welcoming.

'But I really am surprised that I have done quite so well this season. But I got off to a good start in Australia (tied 17th at the Masters and tied
eighth in the Open) and that gave me some early confidence.

'Then I had a seventh in a tournament in Sacramento early on in the US and
that was another real boost. My goal at the start of the year was to try and win cards for both Tours, and I'm nearly there.'

As for such heady - but the currently viable prospect - of her making a Solheim Cup debut in less than 12 months' time, she totally laughs off a notion that she clearly regards as crazy nonsense.

She may be riding high in the rankings after three top tens and two top-20s from just seven counting events but she more than convincingly claimed: 'Honestly, I haven't though about it at all. There are far too many good players in Europe to think that I even have a chance. Maybe in years to come, but certainly not next year.'

©    8 - NOVEMBER 2001

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