When Laura Davies won the British Women’s Open in 1986, neither Georgia Hall nor Azahara Muñoz was born. More than three decades later, the three players will be the main star attractions competing in the Spanish Women’s Open at La Quinta Golf Resort in Marbella from tomorrow until Sunday…
The 1986 British Open was not yet a Grand Slam event, but England’s Davies went on to win four other majors in the United States, during a record rampage in her heyday that included becoming the first non-American to finish number one on the US LPGA money list, and topping the Ladies European Tour a record seven times from 1985 to 2006. In 1994, Davies became the first golfer, male or female, to win on five different golf tours in one calendar year: Europe, US, Australia, Japan and Asia.
Now 55 and named a “Dame” in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, Davies is not only an eminence grise of women’s golf, but also remains competitive on both sides of the Atlantic, having this year won the inaugural US Senior Women’s Open and a second “over-50s” major, the Senior LPGA Championship, against other international legends of the sport.
Also earlier this year, Davies teed up in the Shipco Masters in Denmark, the first woman to compete in a European Senior Tour event. Hitting from the same tees as her male opponents, she finished 44th in the 60-player field, 19 shots behind the eventual winner, Colin Montgomerie, along the way carding a one-under 71 in the second round.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Hall broke through for her own first major championship title in this year’s British Open. Last year she topped the Ladies European Tour order of merit, and if she repeats the feat in Marbella she will become the youngest player to win two of the end-of-season titles; Davies was one year older when she claimed her second consecutive order of merit title in 1986.
Azahara Muñoz is still without a major in her CV but has starred on both the LET and US LPGA Tour and returns to her home town (she was born in Marbella and is an honorary member of Royal Guadalmina Golf Club) after winning the 2016 and 2017 Spanish Opens at Aloha and Guadalmina, respectively.
Davies is also a dual Spanish Open champion (1986 at La Manga Club and 2010 at Flamingos Golf Club in Benahavís), while another player in the field, Wales’ Becky Brewerton, won the 2009 event at Panorámica Golf Club in Castellón.
Three other key rivals for the title at La Quinta are expected to be the Tour’s longest hitter, Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam, who two months ago won the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open at Terramar near Barcelona, and current number two Caroline Hedwall and number three Jenny Haglund, winners this year of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France and Lalla Meryem Cup, respectively.
During the official presentation of the tournament on Monday, the presiding regional and provincial authorities noted that, with over 70 golf courses, the Costa del Sol (also known as the Costa del Golf) is the premier European destination for golfers. “There are very few locations that combine so many attractions in the same place like the province of Málaga does: outstanding golfing facilities, the wide range of activities on offer and an excellent climate that means you can play golf all year round.”