×
Golf Channel Mobile
Golf Channel
Free
install

GFC Search

 

The Year of the Woman -- But Which One

RSS

Tiger Woods became the first player in 30 years to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam, and even he concedes that 2002 in golf was the year of the woman.
 
The only question: Which one?
 
No one played better than Annika Sorenstam.
 
She had the most dominant season on the LPGA Tour in nearly 40 years by winning 13 times around the world, including a major. The 32-year-old Swede finished out of the top 10 only three times and shattered her own scoring record.
 
'She performed at the highest level for the longest period of time,' Woods said. 'If you look at her numbers ... that's when you appreciate what she's done. And that's what makes her year a very, very special year.'
 
No one made more headlines than Martha Burk.
 
Her crusade for a female member at Augusta National has led to the messiest controversy in the 68-year-history of the Masters, one that threatens to overshadow Woods' bid for a third consecutive green jacket in April.
 
Because of Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations, the Masters dropped its television sponsors and is bracing for protesters outside the green gates of Augusta National.
 
'It's inevitable there is going to be ... a woman member,' Burk said.
 
If that's the case, club chairman Hootie Johnson says it will be on Augusta's timetable, 'and not at the point of a bayonet.'
 
The only woman who successfully crashed an all-male party was Suzy Whaley.
 
The 36-year-old club pro from Connecticut became the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event when her victory in a PGA sectional tournament -- even though she played from a shorter set of tees -- made her eligible for the Greater Hartford Open.
 
'I'm going to do it the best I possible can, and that's going to have to be good enough,' said Whaley, who will have to play from the championship tees.
 
The women stated their case in more conventional manners.
 
Juli Inkster, who won her first U.S. Amateur at Prairie Dunes as a 20-year-old newlywed, returned to Kansas as a 42-year-old mother of two daughters and captured the U.S. Open. She also helped the Americans win the Solheim Cup.
 
Karrie Webb became the first woman to complete the Super Slam by winning the British Open. Se Ri Pak won the LPGA Championship and Sorenstam the Nabisco Championship, as the LPGA's best four players split the majors.
 
Sorenstam's 13 victories worldwide were the most since Mickey Wright won 13 times on the LPGA Tour in 1963. The 32-year-old Swede never went more than three tournaments without winning, and earned more than $2.6 million.
 
'That's incredible,' Meg Mallon said. 'You wouldn't say that about Tiger. Golf just doesn't allow that anymore. It's pretty exciting to see in this era.'
 
Woods was no slouch.
 
He won the Masters and U.S. Open by three strokes, the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to capture the first two majors. The next stop was Muirfield, just like it was 30 years ago, only that's where his bid for the calendar Grand Slam ended in horrific fashion.
 
In raging winds, Woods had an outrageous third round -- an 81, his worst as a professional. Ernie Els won the silver claret jug in the first British Open that required a sudden-death playoff when four extra holes wasn't enough.
 
The most thrilling finish in a major took place at Hazeltine, where Woods closed with four straight birdies only to see former car stereo salesman Rich Beem hold him off by one stroke to win the PGA Championship.
 
Woods finished with six victories worldwide and another sweep of the major awards.
 
'Nobody really can put into perspective what he's done,' Davis Love III said. 'He's had three or four of the best years ever, and that's why you don't pay much attention to it.'
 
There were a few surprises on the PGA Tour.
 
A record 18 players won for the first time on tour, two of them in the World Golf Championships. Another was Craig Perks in The Players Championship with the wildest finish of the year. He chipped in for eagle on No. 16, made a 30-foot birdie on the island-green 17th and chipped in for par on the final hole.
 
Europe was considered a surprise winner in the Ryder Cup, even though it has won six of the last nine matches. The biggest shock was Phillip Price at No. 119 in the world beating second-ranked Phil Mickelson, and Paul McGinley making crucial putts on the final two holes to clinch victory at The Belfry.
 
'Out of the shadows come heroes,' European captain Sam Torrance said. 'And that's where Paul McGinley and Phillip Price came.'
 
Hale Irwin proved to be an ageless wonder on the Senior PGA Tour, at 57 becoming the first player to surpass $3 million in one year on the 50-and-over circuit.
 
Another ageless wonder hit his last ceremonial drive at Augusta National. Sam Snead, blessed with the sweetest swing in golf, died six weeks later at 89. Golf lost another giant when Paul Runyan, a two-time PGA champion known as 'Little Poison' died at 93.
 
The Masters bid an emotional farewell to Arnold Palmer, who played in his 48th and final tournament.
 
'This tournament won't be the same without Arnie,' Ben Crenshaw said.
 
Controversy at Augusta National was not limited to its all-male membership. Johnson was criticized for his brusque handling of former champions, sending letters to some aging champions urging them not to play.
 
'I didn't want to get a letter,' Palmer joked when announcing he was playing in his last Masters.
 
The course also went through its largest redesign in history, a project that added nearly 300 yards and eliminated all but the longest hitters from serious contention.
 
Still, the chairman's boldest move was his response to Burk's letter.
 
Johnson issued a blistering statement that Augusta National would not be bullied into inviting a female member.
 
Burk went on the attack, applying pressure to corporate members of the club, tournament sponsors and even Woods, criticizing the world's No. 1 player for not taking a stronger stand against discrimination.
 
'If others had taken that view, he'd be a caddie at Augusta,' Burk said.
 
Johnson finally ended his silence in a Nov. 4 interview, in which he said the Masters would be played no matter what, and there was no chance of a female member by April.
 
'We will prevail because we're right,' he said.
 
The stalemate figures to carry into 2003, which again might be the year of the women -- those protesting outside Augusta National at the Masters.