THEIR names may not be as well-known as the desperate wannabees of reality TV, but make no mistake – the A-listers of women’s golf are heading to Merseyside.
The Ricoh Women’s British Open will attract the vast majority of the world’s best.
And while players like Yani Tseng – the world number one – may not be as familiar as men’s rankings leader Rory McIlroy, the dedication, commitment and technical golfing skill required to succeed is just the same.
And with crowds of around 70,000 predicted for Hoylake, the tournament offers an ideal opportunity to get a close-up view of the women’s golfing prowess.
A new report on the future of the men’s game has pinpointed a growing influence of players from the Far East, but on the women’s tours they are already a major force.
The Rolex rankings are dominated by players from Korea and Japan with Taiwanese player Yani Tseng arriving on Wirral as the defending British champion.
China, too, now has its first major winner in any form of the sport. Shanshan Feng won the Wegmans LPGA Championship at the age of just 22 and has warned that she will be the first of many players from her home country to take golf’s top titles.
She said: “I am really looking forward to playing in the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Hopefully I will feel a little extra confidence to be announced on the tee as a major winner.
“Every year I’ve learnt a little more about playing links golf and my results have improved each time.“
Feng added: “I am very proud to be the first major winner from mainland China, although I think I’m just lucky. There are many good players from China and young players coming through right now. I am the first one to win a major but I’m sure there will be a second, third, and many more.”
Naturally the British title is the one all the home players want to have on their golfing CV, but Britain’s most decorated woman golfer – Laura Davies – is well aware of where the biggest threat will come from.
Davies, who won the British Open in 1986 before it was elevated to major status, expects the Asian players to be to the fore despite the field being packed with fellow former winners Catriona Matthew from Scotland and Karen Stupples from England alongside the cream of countries like America, Australia, South Africa and the rest of Europe.
“There are so many players coming through from Asia, playing to such a high level,” she says. “They are very hard-working and single-minded and have a disciplined approach to practising and developing their skills.
“The young girls in those countries want to become professional golfers. They see players on their own Tours or playing the big events abroad thanks to the TV coverage they receive.
“That means in countries like Korea and Japan, the women golfers are very well-known because all the tournaments are on TV. That helps inspire young girls to want to try the game.”
Davies believes a higher profile for women’s golf holds the key to its future development closer to home.
“Better prize money on Tour goes hand in hand with more TV coverage,” she says, “and both would encourage more girls to give the sport a try and for the better players to see it as a potential career for the future. Hopefully the TV coverage of the Ricoh Women’s British Open can show girls in this country that golf is a fun sport – and it is not just for the boys.”
But Davies also believes the visit to Royal Liverpool presents a great chance for people to get out of the armchair and enjoy the live action.
“Anyone coming to Hoylake will be able to enjoy a close view of the golfing skills on show,” she says, “and see players playing with a smile on their face.”