This quartet – Beatriz Recari, Belen Mozo, Azahara Munoz & Maria Hernandez – puts Spain in the spotlight as a red-hot producer of young LPGA talent.
Recari turned down a chance to be in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition because the photo shoot conflicted with last year’s Evian Masters and Women’s British Open. For Recari, it was an easy decision. She wants to be known more for her golf game than her body. Several months later, Recari snapped an ugly summer stretch with a victory at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. Now she’s known as the LPGA champion who put golf first.
“What I learned from last year is that you can’t force it,” said Recari, who made the cut only nine times in 19 events. “You just have to let things happen.”
Recari, who turns 24 on April 21, spends most of her downtime in Miami, where she enjoys wearing mini skirts, fitted blazers and heels. At the made-for-TV Mojo 6 last spring, Recari wore a gold frock designed by Marc Jacobs for Kate Moss. Not surprisingly, fans voted her into the event.
Munoz doesn’t have a U.S. residence. She wants to spend every minute she’s not traveling to tournaments at home in her beloved Spain. The 2010 Rolex Rookie of the Year earned $402,498 last season – good for 30th on the money list – so she can afford to globe-trot.
Munoz isn’t one to set many goals. But the 23-year-old isn’t afraid to list the 2011 Solheim Cup as a top priority.
Few would be surprised to see Munoz play for Europe. She won the LET’s ’09 Madrid Masters in her first tournament as a professional. In December, Munoz hired a trainer and said she feels more energized. After playing in Asia earlier this year, she went hiking with friends in Spain. Half of them didn’t even have workout clothes.
“Back home, no one ever wears sweat pants,” said Munoz, who has a closet filled with heels and dresses in Malaga, Spain.
Belen Mozo might dance down the aisle of a grocery store if the mood strikes. A bundle of personality and grit, Mozo stands ready to make a big LPGA splash, following in the footsteps of her good friend, Munoz.
“Obviously, my goal is Rookie of the Year,” said Mozo, a hungry 22-year-old from Cadiz who graduated from USC and also holds a card on the Ladies European Tour . She won the 2006 British Women’s Amateur and British Girls’ for a rare double before college.
Mozo’s international relations degree got her interested in Middle Eastern literature. She recently finished Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” likely on a beach somewhere in Spain.
She has graduated from the hippie clothes she wore in college and is especially glad to be rid of her oversized USC golf uniform. Mozo signed with the Greg Norman Collection after turning professional.
“If I don’t feel pretty, I won’t play confidently,” she said.
Hernandez came close to quitting golf to study architecture in Spain. The 25-year-old from Pamplona had turned down several U.S. universities offering golf scholarships. Purdue coach Devon Brouse proved persistent, however, and with encouragement from her Spanish instructors, Hernandez eventually traveled to West Lafayette, Ind., for a visit.
“I really think it was the best decision I ever made,” said Hernandez, who won the 2009 NCAA Championship and closed her career with 13 collegiate titles.
Hernandez, a hard-working perfectionist, turned professional in 2010 and won the LET’s Allianz Ladies Slovak Open. Now in her second year on the LPGA, she’s hoping an improved short game will lead to more success.
Off the course, Hernandez can be found lounging around in jeans with her Siberian husky, Gandalf. She’s a volunteer coach at Purdue and helped the program capture its first NCAA Championship last May.