After the January Tournament of Champions, pre-opening of the LPGA Tour 2021 won by Jessica Korda, the season really takes off on February 25 at Lake Nona in Orlando. This time, Geneva’s Albane Valenzuela really wants to get involved.
Before leaving his position as “Commissioner” of the LPGA to lead the USGA, Mike Whan has managed a program of 34 tournaments majors included, apart from the Solheim Cup and the Tokyo Olympic Games, for a total prize-money of $ 76 million. Wishing that these meetings take place well, without any postponements or cancellations in strings, even played without spectators, we should witness another demonstration of the high quality of women’s golf that some still find it difficult to admit.
Reviewing the field of players qualified for this season, we note that French golf is represented by Céline Boutier, already a winner, Perrine Delacour in a good position in the entry-season standings, and Céline Herbin with an average playing card. Three French women on the LPGA Tour is a first. But four is in the record books. Albane Valenzuela displays her Swiss nationality but could do the same with the United States colours (where she was born), Mexico (her father’s origin) and… France (her mum’s). She carries four passports, so no reason to get angry. All four French speaking girls will play the LPGA Tour 2021 with our support and we love it.
Albane Valenzuela, 23, flew from success to success in the amateur ranks. Raised in golf in Geneva, Swiss champion, international selections, low amateur at two “majors”, two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur finalist, playing for Switzerland at the Rio Olympics, piling four years of NCAA trophies and titles at Stanford, the same university from which Tiger Woods also graduated, all of that before turning pro in 2019 when she brightly qualified on the LPGA Tour. And we made a point to join her on tee-box #1 of her first pro tournament in the United States on February 2020, whose new edition is to be contested on February 25. Last year she enjoyed a fair result signing for – 1 in four rounds. Everything seemed to be promising with this good start, but Albane was to lose her skills within the next events, suffering from a back pain becoming so intrusive that she had to stop playing any further, before the LPGA amending the season, tournament after tournament, because of the Covid19 pandemic.
Back home in the Bahamas, she was told that her health problem was linked to an altered nervous combination, with an effect ranging from the neck to the little fingers. “This medical period occupied me a lot, especially since I played overtime with appendicitis, mine, then that of my little brother Alexis, followed by a visit to the hospital to treat a stomach problem, also taking care of my mom who had surgery, all before I found myself cloistered last January in my room, hit by the CoronaVirus, being very messed up with all that it represents”, all that said with a half-smile grimace.
“But that’s behind me. Today I appreciate again the decision taken by the LPGA Tour not to consider the 2020 season standings, good or bad. So, I start my 2021 tour, fresh, with a free spirit, well trained most recently eight hours a day, and ready, enriched with the experience of the tournaments played last year. I intend to play quite a few this season, what a “rookie” is encouraged to do, without having the exclusive goal of winning, but to be prepared for it. Obviously, the majors are important, but I’ll have to qualify, and the first one, the Ana Inspiration, is just in three weeks”.
“The most important thing is my return to competition. It’s to find the game of my successful amateur period, in agreement with Alberto (her dad, coach and caddie for the first two events). And do my best. Everything else will be guided by the outcomes, whether it’s a Solheim Cup selection (why not) or my qualification to the Tokyo Olympics after Rio. If I play well, I’m sure I’ll be there. My Corona experience will have at least taught me that it is far better to deal with today’s realities before what could happen in nine months. Fortunately, between Europeans often encountered in the past amateur tournaments, we form a force to rely on. I could mention Céline Boutier, Anne van Dam, and also add Andrea Lee, my American partner at Stanford”.
Like a top player, Albane Valenzuela has signed some sponsorship agreements with a few benchmark brands including Rolex, the unmissable Swiss watchmakers who could not snub the promissing Geneva talent, and Under Armor, the prominent clothing brand dressing Jordan Spieth or Matthew Fitzpatrick. “At this stage, I am amazed but so happy to already enjoy a big tournament to my name, organized on May 27 in Phoenix with their support and the AJGA’s (American Junior Girls Association). I might be there, this date still being open on the LPGA Tour schedule”. Does Albane really realize that she becomes now an AJGA role model for the juniors taking from Annika Sorenstam and Seri Pak, two legends of women’s golf? Of course she knows it. “Outstanding!” she said. PPH
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