- Alistair Tait
It’s A Young Women’s Game
Lilia Vu (pictured) was due her first major win when she triumphed in a playoff over Angel Yin to win the Chevron Championship.
Twenty five is the ideal age to win a major championship.
For women that is: men have to wait another five years. That’s if the last 20 major championships in women’s and men’s golf are anything to go by.
According to my math – sketchy sometimes, I know – the average age of the last 20 women’s major winners is 25, 25.15 to be precise. Compare that to men winning major titles over their last 20 marquee tournaments, and 30 is the number, or 30.30.
Okay, the men have a couple of guys by the name of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson pushing that average age up. Woods was 43 when he triumphed in the 2019 Masters, while Mickelson became the oldest major winner at age 50 when he won the 2021 PGA Championship. Given his joint runner-up finish in this year’s Masters, it’s not inconceivable he could break his own record in the next few years.
Take those two legends out of the equation and the average age of the last 20 major winners in men’s golf drops to 28.5, still three years on average older than their female counterparts. Only three women 30 or over have won any of the last 20 women’s majors – Mirim Lee (30), 2020 Amundi Evian Championship; Anna Nordqvist (33), 2021 AIG Women’s Open; and Ashleigh Buhai (33), AIG Women’s Open.
What is it about women’s golf that players seem to arrive on the professional scene and win at ridiculously young ages? Yes we’re used to Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and others making seamless transitions from college golf to the professional ranks. Morikawa was just 23 when he won the first of his two majors so far, the 2020 PGA Championship, and 24 when he became Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal St George’s in 2021. He and Scheffler, 24 when he won last year’s Masters, are the only major winners 25 or under in the list of the last 20 men’s major champions.
By contrast, I count 14 players 25 or under to lift major trophies in women’s golf over their last score of blue chip events. What’s going on?
Look at the Chevron’s final leaderboard when the festivities ended with Vu jumping into the small lake beside the 18th hole at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. The average age of players in the top 10 was – yes, you’ve guessed it – 25. Okay, 25.6 if you round it off, but still….
Amy Yang must have felt like the grandmother in that group. She’s an almost octogenarian 33. Thailand’s uber-talented Atthaya Thitikul, surely a multiple-major winner in waiting, was the youngest at just 20.
I’m a firm believer in young players having a plan B should professional golf not work out. I’ve seen too many talented players put all their eggs in the tour pro basket only to find themselves looking for ways to make money when their dreams die. That’s why I hate to see youngsters quitting college before they graduate, and not getting that vital education which could stand them in good stead should their golf go pear shaped. Many’s the so-called future major champion who left college early to pursue their golfing dreams only to fail.
My view now is that young women have a better chance of making it on the LPGA or LET Tours by quitting their education early than young men do. The top women on the World Amateur Golf Ranking – Vu spent a total of 31 weeks as world amateur number one – seem to have a far better chance of success than their male counterparts.
It's certainly a young women’s game.
Why? Genuine question. One I’d love to know the answer to. Answers on a postcard please.
#JustSaying: “The lady golfer is a distinct genus, belong to the Amazonae or athletic women.” Amy Bennet Pascoe, writing in Golf and Golfers in 1899
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of IMG