Foreign Golfers on the Rise

By Gabrielle McMillen

In recent times, golf has become a highly international sport. From competitions in Australia to Georgia’s own Masters Tournament, golf has become an international language that many can speak.

Naturally, many students from abroad come to American schools to further their golf careers and many foreign golfers come to the United States with dreams of competing and winning tournaments such as the U.S. Open.

Over the course of the past 15 years, more international players are winning more and more tournaments. By studying the years 1998, 2003, 2006, and 2011, the movement of golfers from abroad seems to become more popular, especially in women’s golf. Even though other countries have always produced able golfers, recent years show that they are winning more. Studies of past winners of the Liz Murphey Classic, NCAA Men’s Championship, the Masters, LPGA, Men’s British Open, and Women’s U.S. Open prove this trend.

In studying male and female winners from tournaments from the college level and professional level, more and more foreign players are winning titles.  In 1998, roughly half of winners were foreign. Professional golfer Mark O’Meara from the United States swept the Masters and British Open Tournaments, while South Korean Se Ri Pak took both the Ladies Professional Golf Associations Championship and the U.S. Open titles. On the collegiate level, 1998 gave University of Minnesota’s James McLean the NCAA Men’s Championship title. He was born Australia. That year Reilley Rankin from the University of Georgia won the Liz Murphey Classic.  She hailed from South Carolina.

The year 1998 proved that foreign females tended to win more tournaments than foreign men. Even though half of the winners of these six competitions were not from the United States, this was a year more on a couple of key golfers winning multiple tournaments. Both Se Ri Pak and Mark O’Meara won two large tournaments apiece.  Golf on the collegiate level appeared to be a mash-up of foreign and American winners.

Once again, half of the winners of these tournaments in 2003 were not American.  However, the monopoly trend was not apparent this year. In 2003, Spaniard Alejandro Canizares won the NCAA Championship for Arizona State. Just like in 1998, American Elizabeth Janangelo from Connecticut won the Liz Murphey Classic for Duke.
That is where the similarities with 1998 end. Professional players Mike Weir from Canada won the Masters and Ben Curtis from the U.S. won the British Open. Annika Sorenstam from Sweden conquered the LPGA Tournament and American Hilary Lunke defeated her opponents to win the Women’s U.S. Open. This year, both a foreign and American took titles in the sport, which makes 2003 a less-correlated year than 1998.

A dramatic shift occurred in 2006 for both men and women golfers. This year, American men took home both collegiate and professional titles, while it was foreign women who won their tournaments. While it has seemed that non-American women have had more of a presence in golf than men from abroad, 2006 was the year that foreign women took over the world of golf.
Both Se Ri Pak and Annika Sorenstam came back with a roar: the South Korean won the LPGA tour again while Sorenstam won the Women’s U.S. Open. Caroline Westrup from Sweden won the Liz Murphey Classic while representing Florida State. Phil Mickelson won another Masters in 2006 and Tiger Woods swept another British Open. American Jonathan Moore won the NCAA Championship for Oklahoma State.

Both foreign women and foreign men dominated the golf course in 2011. The only American to win out of the six tournaments discussed was John Peterson, who won the NCAA Championship for LSU. Marta Silva Zamora from the University of Georgia won the Liz Murphey in 2011. Charl Schwartzel from South Africa won the Masters last year and Darren Clark from Northern Ireland reigned supreme. Yani Tseng from Taiwan dominated in the LPGA tournament and South Korean So Yeon Ryu took home the top title in the 2011 Women’s U.S. Open.

Even with the abundance of foreign male golfers, it seems that women have a larger amount of foreign tournament winners. So far in 2012, Canadian Jennifer Kirby won the Liz Murphey for Alabama. However, American Bubba Watson took home the winning title for the Masters.

Only time will tell if foreign male golfers will have the same presence that foreign female golfers do. However, as the years go on America’s monopoly on the sport of golf seems to be getting weaker and weaker.

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