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Game on: The female golfers who are changing the face of golf forever

The successful drive to encourage women onto the golf course is a testament not just to its players but also partnerships with forward-thinking brands

This week sees the world’s leading amateur female golfers compete at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship. The event was established in 2019 to nurture new talent and create a rewarding pathway for women golf players, with Rolex a key partner since its inception. For more than 50 years, the luxury watch brand has been passionate about championing the development of the game of golf worldwide, partnering the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) since 1980 and being Official Timekeeper of the five women’s Majors. Here, three leading female golfers – all of them Rolex Testimonees – share their thoughts on their illustrious careers, inclusivity and how we can further make strides in inspiring women to take up the sport.

 

Annika Sörenstam

Meet The Female Golfers Changing The Face Of GolfPin
Rolex Testimonee Annika Sörenstam Wearing The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 31. ©Rolex/Alexandre de Brabant

Swedish professional golfer Annika Sörenstam, 53, is one of the best female golfers in history, smashing records ever since she turned professional in 1992 (and, indeed, before). The numbers speak for themselves: 90 worldwide victories including 72 on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour; 10-time Major champion; a record eight Rolex LPGA Player of the Year awards; induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2023… the list is endless. You’ll also have likely spotted her at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur where, along with another Rolex Testimonee Lorena Ochoa, she participated in the Honorary Starters first-tee ceremony ahead of the final round.

Meet The Female Golfers Changing The Face Of GolfPin
Rolex Testimonee Annika Sörenstam With The Solheim Cup Trophy After Being Announced As Team Europe Captain For 2017. ©Rolex/Chris Turvey

But rather than rest on her laurels, Sörenstam has used her platform to support women’s golf. In 2007, she created the ANNIKA Foundation to provide opportunities for female players at junior, collegiate and professional levels. The impact of its work is being felt worldwide. “While I’m obviously proud of my playing career and various records, I may be most proud of the work of my foundation,” Sörenstam tells The Glossary. “When we started, 17% of the junior golfers were girls. Now, I’m proud to say that number is up to 35%. There are so many federations around the world, junior golf groups, and major companies such as Rolex, who support the women’s game. There is a lot of positive momentum for women in the sport.”

Her foundation aside, what else would Sörenstam like to see in terms of encouraging more women to play golf? “At the amateur level, for clubs to make it fun and social. I find a lot of ladies don’t play because they are intimidated. I’m not sure at the professional levels whether girls and women need to be encouraged. If that is their dream, they will chase it. They do, however, need more resources. We are trying to provide that with some of our programs like the ANNIKA Women’s All Pro Tour and the ANNIKA Development Programme.”

Nancy Lopez

Meet The Female Golfers Changing The Face Of GolfPin
Rolex Testimonee Nancy Lopez With The Solheim Cup Trophy In 2019. ©Rolex/Chris Turvey

American former professional golfer Nancy Lopez, 67, is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. For good reason. Her career spans winning the New Mexico Women’s Amateur at the age of just 12 to claiming 48 tournament titles, four player-of-the-year awards and three Majors. Little wonder she’s been recognised as one of the LPGA’s Top 50 players and teachers of all time and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Meet The Female Golfers Changing The Face Of GolfPin
Rolex Testimonee Nancy Lopez With The Trophy After Winning The Women’s PGA Championship. ©Keystone

Her passion for the sport knows no bounds – nor her belief that female participation in golf should continue to grow (she’s even written books on the subject). “So many women do not take time for themselves and when they realise how peaceful it is to get out on the golf course, enjoying the outdoors and sunshine, they get hooked.” But for more women to pick up a golf club, “we need to make them feel more comfortable by getting them to take lessons and really learn the game, so that they can feel good about being out on the course.”

With such an illustrious career it must be hard to pick a highlight, but for Lopez it was captaining the United States Solheim Cup team in 2005 (she also represented the US national team in 1990). “To be able to captain and be with the 12 great players that played on my team was a thrill. When you are representing your country, there is no greater honour,” she says. “I’m also very proud of my 48 wins and the wonderful awards that I accumulated through my career. It was a wonderful time of my life.”

Maria Fassi

Meet The Female Golfers Changing The Face Of GolfPin
Rolex Testimonee Maria Fassi Hits A Shot During The 2021 Amundi Evian Championship. ©Rolex/Thomas Lovelock

Mexico’s Maria Fassi has been making waves in women’s golf ever since she represented her country at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, before going on to win the Mexican Women’s Amateur in 2015, 2016 and 2018; she also finished as runner-up in the inaugural edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019. That same year, the 26-year-old made her professional debut in the U.S. Women’s Open, playing in the Tokyo Olympics not long after. “It is awesome to see more and more women competing,” she says. “I think it is only the beginning. I think it is going to continue to grow and hopefully, we can inspire many more women to continue to play.”

Meet The Female Golfers Changing The Face Of GolfPin
Rolex Testimonee Maria Fassi Hits A Putt On The 18th Green At The 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. ©Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox

As a professional she is, she says, “grateful for the companies that have had a tremendous weight on the increasing number of viewers and amount of participation in women’s golf. I would love to see more people get involved and support us. You know, financially support us and provide more platforms to showcase the talent. However, I think all that is growing and we are getting more and more opportunities. I am very grateful for that.”

Fassi has channelled her own support into The Maria Fassi Foundation and the creation of Fassi’s Friends. Keen to nurture the next generation of female golfers (Fassi first started playing when she was just seven), it offers free opportunities for disabled and able-bodied children of all backgrounds to come together to learn golf. “Fassi’s Friends has been the thing I am most proud of. I hope it can carry on growing as my career continues,” she says.

This year’s edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will take place from 3 – 6 April

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Main image: Rolex Testimonee Maria Fassi Hits A Tee Shot At The 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. ©Getty Images/David Cannon
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