Matt in Tenerife

Matt Cooper’s report from the Canary Islands where he attended the Ladies European Tour’s Tenerife Open.

This week Matt Cooper is reporting from the Canary Islands where he is covering the Ladies European Tour’s Tenerife Ladies Match Play.
Matt travelled to Tenerife with Monarch Airlines who operate year-round flights to the island from Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Gatwick. He stayed at the Hotel Jardin Tropical in Costa Adeje.
The shootout
All week the organisers and promoters have sought to create an innovative tournament. That included the concerted use of social media and a format that is almost certainly unique. The response from the players and caddies has been positive: all agreed that week after week of strokeplay gets dull and something out of the ordinary makes for a more entertaining week.
After two days of matchplay the remaining eight players were faced with another challenge (an 18-hole strokeplay shootout) and it produced what we all hoped it would: a thrilling finale that wasn’t decided until Nikki Garrett, playing last in the final group, saw her birdie putt slip past the hole.
When it failed to drop Wales’ Becky Brewerton knew that she was assured of her third victory as a professional. It was the end of a week in which she had always appeared confident and assured, achieved something special (defeating Laura Davies in head-to-head matchplay) and then ended a two year wait for the third title.
Only for two holes has Brewerton looked less than composed on the course – during the first two holes of her match against Laura Davies. But once she corrected that situation with two quick birdies she recovered the mental zone that all golfers crave and even coped with Davies’ typically brilliant final hole eagle that pushed the match into extra holes.
In today’s final round she assumed early control over the field and never released it, even when put under pressure late in the day. Three birdies in the first seven holes took her into the lead and although she added three bogies she responded with quick birdies on every occasion.
Equally important was a brilliant par on the short par-four 14th hole. She had hit an errant tee shot into the scrub and her second shot flew through the green close to a wall. After two poor shots it would have been easy to lurch towards a bogey but her restricted chip shot nestled close to the flag for par.
She admitted afterwards that her serenity was only surface deep on the final two holes; in truth she was fighting the urge to snatch at shots, but she fought that urge well enough to close par-birdie and set a target that was going to test the chasing Carlota Ciganda and Garrett.
Wearing her Arizona Sun Devils belt, the debutant Ciganda played in much the same style she has all week: somewhat wild from the tee but, just like her hero Rafa Nadal, never quitting. Given her wayward driving it is amazing that she didn’t drop one shot all day. Unfortunately she struggled to get the ball close to the hole for birdie opportunities.
She showed her class in making birdies when the pressure was at its greatest: on the 16th and 17th holes. In chasing for birdie on the final hole she found water with her second shot, but she still made par and was happy with her performance.
She travels to Switzerland for her next professional start and then plans to play the LPGA Qualifying School at the end of July (which rules her out of entering the Ricoh Women’s British Open).
For Garrett it was a first top ten of the season and perhaps no surprise that it came on the island of Tenerife because her record in Spain and on Tenerife is superb – in 12 event she has two wins, two second places and has finished no worse than 29th in her last 11 visits.
Having looked confident all week she burst into the reckoning with three birdies in four holes from 13th hole. When she left the 16th green she was unable to view the leaderboard that had been behind the 17th green (it had been taken to the back of the 18th green) but she suggested afterwards that it would not have affected her strategy.
When her drive on the 18th settled next to a clump of grass she laid up to perfect distance for her 54 degree wedge (“I love that club”) and hit a good approach. She also felt her putt was going to drop but it slipped by.
After their match on Saturday Laura Davies tweeted: “Keep swinging like that (Becky) and you’ve got a big summer ahead.” Next week the tour moves to Switzerland for one of the most lucrative events of the year, then July offers the Evian Masters and Ricoh Women’s British Open. Brewerton is currently just outside the qualifying places for the Solheim Cup team but it seems certain that Alison Nicholas will want her in the team one way or another.
The reality
Sat with a coffee the other morning, overlooking the 18th green, a fellow journalist said to me: “Not a bad way to spend a working week is it?” He was right and every week I spend on tour is one I look forward to.
But the reality of doing it week in, week out for six or seven weeks is a little bit different. Whilst I now look forward to a relaxing week at home, the players and caddies head to Switzerland for a seventh week in a row.
They love the course and the venue, but they are tired. They will spend Monday travelling and then on Tuesday the schedule continues: practice, pro-am, rounds one, two, three and four. I rarely meet players or caddies who moan about it, but it wears them down and is exhausting.
It is also worth considering the harsh truth of life on the Ladies European Tour: Brewerton is immeasurably happy at this moment having won her third title. The win does not count towards the Henderson Money List (because it is a small field) but it is almost certain that she will end the year in the top twenty anyway, something she has done in every one of her previous seven years as a professional.
And yet the financial reality is very different to the men’s tour. Last year Brewerton finished 18th on the money list winning just over €100,000. Once tax and the many costs of life as a professional were subtracted she estimates her profit was about €10,000.
Compare that with the man who finished 18th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, Rhys Davies. Like Brewerton he is Welsh but that’s where the similarity ends – he won €1,218,636. His costs were probably greater but his profit margin was too.
So let’s just reiterate: Brewerton is a three-time tour winner, a two-time Solheim Cup player and in seven seasons she has never failed to make the top 20 of the money list. And guess what? She has a clothes sponsor (Poodle) but no main sponsor.
I can understand that European Tour stars are easy to sponsor, but the inability of Brewerton to attract support when there are hundreds of lowly ranked Challenge Tour (and lower tour) male golfers with plenty of backing makes very little sense. In addition to being successful on the course she is eloquent, friendly and positive off it.