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Good young 'uns
Europe's Solheim Cup team is already shaping up as a line-up of fresh new faces. Karine Icher (23) and Paula Marti (22), who was joint runner-up in the Weetabix Women's British Open at Turnberry on Sunday, have already clinched their places.

And Suzann Pettersen (21) is also within a top-10 finish of making sure she claims one of the top seven automatic ranking places when the side is finalised after next week's WPGA Championship of Europe at Royal Porthcawl in Wales.

It is another sign that the women's game is undergoing a wonderful facelift. And if anyone still doubts that the women's game is undergoing a huge change in image, then they should have been in the Press Centre at Turnberry on Saturday evening.

Those in contention are hauled in for interview, and first up was the perky young American, Natalie Gulbis. A typical Californian, the teenager completely belied her tender years and the fact that this was her first visit to the UK, and her first challenge of links courses.

With her blonde pigtail flapping happily, she told us how she had attacked the course with youthful verve. 'I knew there was going to be a lot of girls making a lot of birdies and I was really aggressive,' she said.

The current leader of the LPGA's Rookie of the Year standings, she then went on to explain how her recent run of form - she is lying at No 31 in the US money list with nearly $200,000 - was due to the appointment of a new caddie by the name of Worth Blackwelder.

He was previously with Mi Hyun Kim. So did she pinch him from the South Korean? 'No, she finished second twice and then fired him,' said the 19-year-old with a mixture of incredulity and a matter of fact 'that's life' attitude.

As Gulbis departed, she was replaced by Jenny Rosales, a 23-year-old from the Philippines. She had just equalled the course record of seven under par 65, although the collection of metal that adorned her ears - three earrings on one side and two on the other - suggested she might be happier appearing at T in the Park, than at T, the Open Championship course.

Then after the final round, we were all entertained by Paula Marti (pictured), who had just tied for second, two shots behind winner, Karrie Webb.

She was even more bubbly and vivacious than normal following her fourth successive round in the 60s and a rise to number four in the Solheim rankings that secured her selection for the joust against the United States in Minnesota in a few weeks' time.

'Finally, I have got enough points to make the Solheim,' said the player who won the Italian Open and the British Masters as a rookie last year. 'This really is a dream come true.'

A good friend of Sergio Garcia's, and with Seve Ballesteros as her ultimate hero, Marti is the perfect role model for the women's game. Pencil slim, she gives the ball a huge clout and has a magical short game to match. Her attitude is also one that most players would die for.

'I'm an attacking player because I have hot blood,' explained the ever-smiling daughter of a famous Spanish portrait painter, Juan Marti. 'That's just how we play golf in Spain. It's just a game, and I think if you have a chance you should just go for it.

'That's my philosophy. I think all the Spanish players are like this. They have a lot of character. Just look at Seve and Sergio.'

From now on, let's hope a lot of young girls look at Marti, Gulbis and Rosales and decide that golf is a game that can be young, glamorous and heck of a good fun.



©    15 - AUGUST 2002



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