2013 preview: 10 young players to watch in Europe
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Photo Gallery: Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn
View images of Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand, photographed by Golfweek during 2012.
If the 2012 season proved anything, it’s that Europe has strength in depth. The signs were obvious throughout the season.
Who would have named Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts to the European Ryder Cup team? Spain’s Rafael Cabrero-Bello surprised everyone by nearly making the team. Who foresaw Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen winning his first European Tour event and contending in big championships? How about an Austrian by the name of Bernd Weisberger winning two tournaments?
Scotland’s Carly Booth won twice on the Ladies European Tour after starting the season with conditional status. The Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team pulled off an upset to win the match for the first time since 1996.
Who will step up this year and announce themselves to the world? Here are 10 young players to watch in Europe in 2013.
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The Thai teenager didn’t just win the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School, she ran away with it. She won by five shots. The 17-year-old ended her amateur career as No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. It will be interesting to see how the two-time AJGA Rolex Player of the Year fares in the professional ranks.
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Lewis gained international recognition by winning the silver medal as leading amateur in the 2011 Open Championship. Not long after he won the Portugal Masters after just a few pro starts. He hasn’t done well since - finishing 117th on last year’s money list and has to improve on that this year or he’ll be heading to the Q-School.
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The Dane was the surprise of the year last season. He won his first tournament, the Sicilian Open, and finished 2012 inside the world top 50 in only his second season on the European Tour. That means he will play in this year’s Masters. Can he improve on last year and establish himself as one of Europe’s best young players?
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The Englishman secured his card through the European Tour Q-School, taking the third card. That should earn him a pretty full schedule this season. Sullivan reached No. 5 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 2011. He also played on the victorious GB&I Walker Cup team that year. Will he follow in the footsteps of fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and others?
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The English amateur took the third card at the LET Q-School, a result that surprised even her. Winning the English Girls’ Championship, Irish Stroke Play and Daily Telegraph Junior Championship last year helped her top the England Golf Amateur Order of Merit. She credits four-time LET winner Lora Fairclough for giving her a game good enough to help her get an LET card. Will it be good enough to excel among Europe’s elite?
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I watched Akesson lose the 2006 British Boys’ Championship at Royal Aberdeen and thought the Swedish player would have won on Tour by now. He only lost to Matthew Nixon in that Boys’ Championship because the Englishman seemed to chip in from everywhere to win in extra holes. Akesson can make up for lost time with a good season this year.
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Norway has yet to produce a batch of players to match the Swedes and Danes. Kofstad won last year’s European Challenge Tour Grand Final, his second win of the season, to top the Challenge Tour order of merit. Will the Oslo native produce the goods to put Norway on the map in men’s golf?
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The English player was one of the heroes of Great Britain & Ireland’s Curtis Cup win at Nairn last year. She turned pro afterwards and didn’t take long to win on the LET Access Series, the LET’s development tour. Clyburn needed a 68 in the final round at the LET Q-School to get one of the last cards, proof that she has the mettle to succeed in the pro game.
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Booth played on the 2009 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team but has struggled with injuries in the interim. The former Augusta State player is back to full health. He earned a place on the European Challenge Tour this year courtesy of a top five finish on the British EuroPro Tour. Like his sister Carly, he is not short of confidence.
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The 16-year-old began the 2012 season by making the cut in the Nabisco Dinah Shore Championship. She also excelled in limited starts on the LET and played a key role in helping GB&I win the Curtis Cup. The precocious teenager just missed out on getting a card at the LET Q-School, and has conditional status this year. She should get enough starts to keep her card. Given the publicity she received last year, there will be a lot of attention on her this season. Can she handle the pressure?