BRITTANY HENDERSON: The Team Canada National squad member had a standout 2012 campaign and were it not for Ko’s heroics in Vancouver, was arguably the top golf story in Canada among amateurs. The Smiths Fall, Ont., teen won at both the Royale Cup Canadian Junior Girls Championship and the Ontario Junior Girls Championship and the CN Canadian Women’s Tour event in Beloeil, Que., which made her the youngest player ever – male or female – to win a professional golf tournament at the age of 14. The victory also earned her an exemption into the CN Canadian Women’s Open where she became the youngest player ever to compete for Canada’s National Women’s Open Championship. She also qualified for match play at the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship, U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. She also finished atop the CN Future Links Junior Girls Order of Merit which led to her being named Canada’s top junior golfer of the year.
JENNIFER KIRBY: Somewhat overshadowed by Henderson, the 21-year-old senior at the University of Alabama showed the future of women’s golf in Canada is healthy with a solid 2012 campaign. After picking up her first career collegiate victory and adding four more top-five finishes, ,the junior helped the Crimson Tide capture the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship. The former Team Canada member also tied for second at the Ontario Women’s Amateur Championship, qualified for match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and had two top-10 finishes at CN Canadian Women’s Tour events. She capped off the year by being named the top female amateur in Canada.
EMERGENCE OF CHINA: With the addition of golf to the Olympic programe, China is among several countries who have have stepped up their development. Fourteen-year-old Guan Tianlang gave a strong indication of the vast golfing potential in the Chinese market by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. That ensured him an invitation to the Masters in 2013 where he will become the youngest player ever to compete at the golf major. Guan’s victory came just five months after Shanshan Feng became the first person from mainland China to win a women’s major when she captured the LPGA Championship by two shots in Rochester, New York. Remarkably, Feng was born just five years after the first golf course was opened in China.
LPGA ASIAN SWEEP: Feng’s victory was part of an Asian sweep of the LPGA majors in 2012. South Korean Jiyai Shin romped to a nine-stroke victory at the Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool in England while Shin’s compatriot Sun-young Yoo won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a playoff at Rancho Mirage in April and Na-Yeon Choi, also of South Korea, claimed her first major title by four shots at the U.S. Women’s Open.
RYDER CUP COMEBACK: Unquestionably the greatest comeback of the year, and perhaps of all time in golf, came at the Ryder Cup in September when Europe overhauled a deficit of 10-6 going into the final day to beat the United States, 14-1/2 to 13-1/2. Inspired by the spirit of the late Seve Ballesteros, Europe sent out their best players early and rode a wave of blue numbers to retain the trophy when Germany’s Martin Kaymer sank a six foot par putt to defeat Steve Stricker one up. “Seve will always be present with this team,” a teary-eyed European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said of his fellow Spaniard, friend and mentor. “He was a big factor for this event, for the European side.”
BELLY PUTTER BAN: The belly putter discussion was thrust into the limelight when Webb Simpson captured the U.S. Open – the second player in as many years to win a major using the anchored stroke. Ernie Els‘ victory at the Open Championshp at Royal Lytham, coupled with the growing number of younger golfers opting to anchor putters to their chin, chest or belly, finally prompted golf’s rulemakers to propose a ban on the technique which could come into effect by 2016.
Files from the Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report; David Ebner and Jeff Brooke also contributed to this report
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