Ladies European Tour Player Inci Mehmet shares her experience of the first Justin Rose Ladies Series Event at Brokenhurst Manor.
Inci Mehmet. Photo by Andrew Redington, Getty Images.
“Let’s all throw in some cash and play some 18 holers to get competing again…” A brilliant idea originally proposed by LET player Liz Young and Brokenhurst Manor head professional Jason MacNiven. With the help of Excel Management, American Golf, Justin Rose and the driving force of his wife Kate, aka “THE BOSS” (his words not mine), within just a few days this idea had escalated and materialised into a mini-tour to test the best British talent on the Ladies European Tour. The newly named Justin Rose Ladies Series naturally has the golfing world talking about women’s golf.
After what feels like a lifetime without competition, the mini-tour provides us with a total of seven 18 hole events plus a 36 hole grand finale at Wentworth. These events will be held over some of the best courses on English soil for a top prize of £5K to the winner of each event. Thanks to American golf’s sponsorship, their order of merit leader board will award the winner with a bonus of £20K, leaving second place with £10K and finally £5K for third place. As you can imagine, with some consistency and good golf, there is a lot to play for.
As a Ladies European Tour player I think I speak on behalf of all the girls on tour that the announcement of this series was very exciting and we are all grateful for the given opportunity. With so much uncertainty looming around at the minute it was a relief to finally have something competitive to play in, be able to sharpen our games and earn a little bit of cash! I do feel sorry for the girls that can’t travel to play in this series for obvious public health reasons, however we can all appreciate the positivity that this has brought to the women’s game.
If you’ve read this far I’m sure that you’ll be interested to know how the course was playing and how the players felt having a scorecard in their hands again. Being out of competition for such a long time, my first tee nerves were more severe than usual. Presented with one of the easiest drives on the course, I found myself with wild thoughts running through my mind such as…
“Wow there are a lot of people watching”,
“Wait, what was my swing thought again?”,
“I wonder if I can drive the green, should I wait?!”,
“Jeeez, just smash it Ince, but not too hard so you top it. That would be really awkward”.
Looking back I am chuckling at how unprofessional my mindset was. These past few months have been surreal and I am sure some of you reading this can unfortunately relate to the drivel running through my brain! Due to being nervous from the get-go, I played with tension, a firm grip and tight shoulders. My worst traits when I am not in the “quiet mode”. To put it bluntly, I left my golf at home for the front 9 but thankfully eased into it, albeit 9 holes too late. I finished tied 7th with a 5 over par 75.
Inci Mehmet. Photo by Andrew Redington, Getty Images.
Also in my group was world no.25 Charley Hull who ended up shooting a level par 70, good enough to earn a spot in a playoff with Liz Young. I was surprised when she shared how nervous she was too, secretly glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one! However, her nerves had clearly faded by the time she got to the playoff, making a clutch birdie on the 1st extra hole for the £5000 first prize. I was so impressed to see Kate Rose personally award the cheque to the winner. The Rose family’s financial commitment to the series is commendable, but her physical presence said so much more.
Kate Rose presenting Charley with a cheque for £5000
Playing with Charley Hull
Playing with Charley is always a great experience. Growing up, I was always told to play with golfers better than yourself because it really highlights the weaknesses in your own game lets you see where the bar is set. Her ball striking yesterday was as usual top notch, she adapted well around the firm greens and holed a few nifty putts. However, she did play the course blind which almost turned out to be very costly! I was so tempted to interrupt her caddie who also hadn’t seen the course (blind leading the blind) when I overheard the selected club and line off the tee on the 17th. A hybrid with the wind into your face was never enough on the selected line to carry the hidden ditch round the corner. A double bogey cost her winning the tournament outright. Even after being punished after a non-destructive shot on 17, it was great to see Charley so level headed, chilled and in her element doing what she loves and does best. Charley is one for keeping it real, and I know for a fact she was very excited about her McDonalds on the way home!
Scores on the Doors
Some of the scores from the 1st event at Brokenhurst Manor
You might be surprised at the high scoring of this first event; playing with and speaking to Charley we both agreed that the course set up was very tough. At a first glance of the scorecard reading just over 6200 yards you automatically start thinking about birdies, but I was wrong to think this course would be so score-able. Even as a longer than average hitter on the tour, Brokenhurst did not play short. There are 2 reachable par 5’s but the real chances to gain shots on the field were on the demanding set of par 3’s. If someone offered me four 3’s before my round I would have snapped their hand off! (Not literally, as that would mean breaking social distancing rules…) Firm and bouncy ground conditions added to the test along with some SAVAGE pin positions. It is always more difficult playing a bouncy parkland course over a bouncy links course; links courses are designed for the ball to be played along the ground and channelled into the green, unlike inland courses which are usually a lot more lush and soft. Let’s also not forget that most of the girls didn’t play a practice round. Combine all these factors and suddenly we have been left looking frustratingly poor at golf! A lot of other players including Dame Laura Davies agreed in saying the course setup was very hard considering it is our first event back in such a long time. It would have been nice to build some confidence by seeing a few more birdie chances but I guess the course was set up the same for everyone. Besides, at the end of the day golf is not always about shooting the lights out; sometimes the most entertaining golf is seeing a great player battle for level par like Charley did on Thursday.
On the whole the tournament was brilliantly organised, it was lovely to be greeted with such a warm welcome from the get-go. From a health and safety viewpoint everything was very well thought through; volunteers tended the flags and raked the bunkers for us and we were clearly instructed where to go so that social distancing measures could be adhered to as best as possible. Brokenhurst Manor displayed its course in immaculate condition, especially the greens which ran fast and so true.
Our next stop on the JL series is Moor park. It happens to clash with a mixed charity Pro-am hosted by Andy Sullivan and Paul Waring at Worplesdon GC and I will be playing in both. Yes, you got that right, on the same day! Playing in both events on the same day will be a challenge in itself and one of the main reasons why most girls have opted out of playing both but instead focusing on one. The way I see it, after having no competitions for 3 months I’m ecstatic to be playing 36 holes, competing for 2 prize funds and getting some extra tournament practise under my belt. Got to get those competitive reps in where I can!