Alice Hewson is the positive story in a tale of two English amateur players. Hewson probably has a future as a tournament professional.
Bet Lucy Williams wishes she had that option.
Hewson made history by winning the Investec South African Women’s Open on her debut on the Ladies European Tour. She’s the first English player to win on her LET debut. The 22-year-old Berkhamsted Golf Club member took the title by a stroke over South Africa’s Monique Smit and Emma Nilsson of Sweden.
It’s been a whirlwind beginning to Hewson’s career. She finished fifth at the LET Q School in January and is now an LET winner.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better start,” Hewson said. “It feels absolutely incredible and it really is a dream come true. Growing up as a kid, all I could ever dream of was playing on the Ladies European Tour and to come and win my first event, the feeling is indescribable.”
Hewson can look forward to a bright future after the deal that was done with the LPGA earlier this year to offer LET professionals an 18-tournament schedule worth a record €24 million. (The elephant in the room is obviously the Coronavirus. The LET might be in the best shape of any professional tour given that the next tournament isn’t until May. Longer term, it remains to be seen if the LET/LPGA merger will last beyond three years.)
Hewson’s amateur record is nothing to be sniffed at. She’s the reigning Ladies European Amateur champion. She played in the 2016 and 2018 Curtis Cup, the 2017 and 2019 Vagliano Trophy, and helped England win the 2017 European Team Championship. She won three times in college golf while attending Clemson, setting numerous school records in the process.
Flashback to another successful English amateur who is no longer in the game because there wasn’t much of a game for her to play in. Lucy Williams won the 2011 English Amateur Championship and turned professional with high hopes. It didn’t take her long to figure out achieving her dream of life as a tour pro was an illusion.
Williams, whose father David played on the European Tour, didn’t have the luxury of a decent schedule when she turned professional. She quickly realised there weren’t enough tournaments to sustain her career. Like many before her, she did the wise thing and got out of the game. She became a school teacher.
Williams isn’t the only player to give up on her dream. Scotland’s Sally Watson quit the game in 2017 to return to university. She was good enough to earn a scholarship at Stanford University. However, after just a few seasons trying to make a living on the LET, Watson realised she was swimming against the tide.
“There’s been a lot in the media recently about the gender pay gap,” Watson said when she finished the 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open, her final event as a pro. “You’ve got players in the top 30 of the LET Money List that are struggling to get the financial support to invest in themselves and progress their game.”
How many potential tour winners did we lose because there just wasn’t enough money in the women's game to sustain a professional career? We’ll never know.
Hopefully Hewson will be able to pursue her dream to the end, unlike Williams and Watson.
(Photo courtesy of the Ladies European Tour)