East meets West


EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – On Sunday morning of the Evian Masters last week, I found myself in the back of a courtesy van with a delightful couple from Texas. They were retired and for the past three years making an annual trip of Alpine luxury which included a visit to Evian Masters. Big fans of women’s golf, we talked about the LPGA. They said they were slightly disillusioned with the way the tour is moving, and mentioned they were also having a difficult time identifying with the current crop of top players,  a large amount of whom are from the Far East.

A few hours after that conversation took place, Ai Miyazato was being crowned crowned champion of the Evian Masters. The 24-year-old from Okinawa captured her first LPGA Tour title in a playoff over Sophie Gustafson, holing a couple of gutsy putts on 18, one in regulation, the other in the playoff.

Miyazato, a superstar in Japan, is a pretty, young golfer with incredible talent and a smooth repetitive golf swing that nods you to sleep like a perfectly in sync pendulum. She is also incredibly pleasant with no air of ego about her at all. She tries hard to speak English and doesn’t shy away from what must be daunting live interviews in a non-native tongue.

In the chaos that ensued after her victory on Sunday she was physically pulled in all directions. One security guard even grabbed her and marched her into the scoring tent for a brief moment thinking she had to sign a scorecard. Through out this hullabaloo Miyazato remained chipper, obviously winning her first tournament didn’t hurt the demeanor, but she remembered interviewers by name and gave good answers, whilst clutching a trophy that was at least half as tall as her short frame.

So in troubling times the Evian Masters breathed a little fresh air into the alpine dusk with a deserving champion, a young lady that may be able to help bridge the gap between East and West.