Story of The Evian Championship
Over the years, The Evian Championship has patiently constructed its own history, to become unique, offering the perfect balance of tradition and innovation whilst respecting golf etiquette. With unfailing support from the Sponsors’ Club, the players, public and volunteers... and proud of its history, The Evian Championship also finds its legitimacy in the list of champions on its winners’ board.
Antoine and Franck Riboud had dreamed of providing a showcase for women champions and so the Evian Masters was launched on the Ladies European Tour with promises of a growing purse.
The magnificent setting produced a magnificent winner in the shape of Helen
Alfredsson, the flamboyant, volatile and glamorous Swede, while the prize fund of £232,500 was immediately the second richest on the Ladies European Tour.
Alfredsson birdied the 11th, 13th, 17th and 18th holes for a final round of 70, two under par and a total of 287, one under. She finished three shots ahead of England’s Lora Fairclough and Australia’s Sarah Gautrey.
In the mid-1990s, the brilliant Laura Davies was at the peak of her considerable powers and she felt everyone else trailing as she cruised to an impressive victory in the second Evian Masters.
Thrilling the galleries with her swashbuckling play, the formidable English woman with the dynamic driver had rounds of 68, 67, 69, 67 for a fabulous total of 271, 17 under par. She finished five shots ahead of a young Annika Sörenstam.
Sörenstam had yet to win in either Europe of America – but that, of course, would soon change? Meanwhile, Davies, who could see its potential as one of the world’s great events, had already fallen in love with the Evian Masters. “This is the best golf I’ve played all year”, she said, “and I’ve achieved my first goal of the year by winning on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Laura Davies retained her title with another imposing display, seeing off all opposition with rounds of 72, 69, 65, 68 for a total of 274, 14 under par. Davies birdied the last two holes to win by four shots from Carin Koch, of Sweden, with Helen Alfredson third, on 279.
A fervent soccer fan Davies had a miniature television in her golf bag so she could keep up to date with England’s exploits in that year’s European Football Championships. Not everyone was happy about this and Davies apologized – but Franck Riboud, a football man himself, understood.
1996 also marks the creation of the Sponsors Club.
Hiromi Kobayashi became the first Japanese champion, defeating England’s Alison Nicholas at the first hole of a play-off after they had tied on 274, 14 under par.
After a tense duel, Kobayashi finally drew level with Nicholas, thanks to a birdie four at the last hole. The pair finished regulation play six strokes ahead of popular Frenchwoman Marie-Laure de Lorenzi.
The duo tackled the 18th hole again in the play-off and Kobayashi, whose cheery demeanour and brilliant play had made her a superstar in her native land, fired a title-winning eagle as Nicholas found a bunker. The cheque for £63,750 went home with Hiromi.
The Evian Masters boosted its prize fund to half a million pounds, attracting a quality field for the first event of the 1998 European Tour season. Always the No. 1 event in continental Europe, the Evian Masters had become one of the 10 biggest tournaments in the world. Once again it was the inimitable Helen Alfredsson who won the title, producing a magical last round of 65, seven under par, to see off her Swedish compatriot Maria Hjorth. While Alfredsson finished on 277, 11 under par overall, Hjorth was four shots adrift with English duo Trish Johnson and Alison Nicholas a further shot behind in a tie for third.
1998 marks also the creation of The Junior football match.
Considered in company with the players since 1995, the cascade of Hole 18 was created at the end of 1998.
In a tense and nerve-racking finish, Catrin Nilsmark gave Sweden another Evian Masters victory when she overcame Laura Davies by two shots.
Always elegant, Nilsmark opened her final round with seven birdies in the first 13 holes. However, it was a nervous Swede who led Davies by two shots coming down the last and a very relieved one who saw Davies miss an eagle putt for a tie.
Nilsmark’s round of 69, 70, 72 and 68 for a total of 279, nine under par, earned her £100,800, the biggest prize ever in Europe.
It was the season of the million-pound purse, and the tournament was co-sanctioned for the first time by the US LPGA Tour.
When announced, the first prize of £177,433 was the biggest in the history of the players in the world, who had tied on 276,12 under par. Karrie Webb, the Australian who had displaced Annika Sörenstam as No. 1 in the world, had to settle for second best this time when the Swede eagled the first extra hole, the picturesque but treacherous 18th, after hitting a seven iron from 172 yeards to seven feet. “My heart’s been pumping all day,” Sörenstam said. “I was very nervous, my hands were sweating, I was talking fast, walking fast but my caddie kept reminding me to breathe, breathe”.
The eighth edition of the Evian Masters boasted a prize fund of £1,5 million, by some way the richest in Europe. Rachel Teske (nee Hetherington), a Queenslander, became the first Australian to win the title and it came only after a titanic struggle with Sweden’s Maria Hjorth.
The pair were tied on 11 under par after three rounds and were destined to battle to the last. The Swede, who had slipped behind after missing a two-foot putt for par at the 17th hole, left an eagle putt of 25 feet short at the 18th and Teske, bunkered in two, holed American Beth Daniel was third.
Annika Sörenstam, by now indisputably the best woman golfer in the world, was in imperious form as she claimed the Evian Masters trophy for the second time with a 19-under-par total of 269.
The South Korean Mi Hyun Kim was four shots behind, sharing second place with Sörenstam’s fellow Swede Maria Hjorth, who finished with a stunning 64. “I am determined to keep improving,” said Sörenstam, giving an insight into the drive that was to see her win 13 times in another record-breaking season. “I am playing better, striking the ball better and I’m making more putts.
“My goal was to win here for many reasons,” she added. “I love this event. It is a first-class event with a first-class field. I couldn’t have felt any better.”
The 10th edition of the Evian Masters found a prestigious new slot in the golfing calendar, taking place in July a week prior to the Women’s British Open. Juli Inkster celebrated her 23rd wedding anniversary by romping to a six-shot victory and her overall total of 267, 21 under par, was a record for the tournament. She also became the first American, to lift the trophy.
Hee-Won Han, of South Korea, was second, two shots ahead of Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa and Rosie Jones, of the United States. “It was tough starting out as there were a lot of players in the hunt”, Inkster said. “But I managed to pull away a little and coming down the back nine was a lot of fun. I had the chance to soak up the atmosphere”.
The Evian Masters golf course celebrated its centenary, Michelle Wie – then a 14-year-old amateur – made her only appearance for the year among the professionals in Europe and the purse was increased to US $2.5 million.
It was an exciting mix and amid all the publicity generated by Wie’s arrival, a 35-year old Australian played the round of her life to snatch the title.
Wendy Doolan beat Annika Sörenstam by a single shot, catapulting into the lead with the sort of run seen perhaps once every 100 years.
Doolan’s dream sequence started at the sixth hole of the final round and went thus : birdie, eagle, birdie, eagle, birdie. “I was a little surprised when I saw Wendy at 17 under”, Sörenstam confessed.
“I knew I had it in me to make a lot of birdies,” Doolan said. “I’ll cherish this for a long time”.
It was the year of the terrific teens as Paula Creamer became the Evian Masters’ youngest winner and, as in 2004, Michelle Wie enchanted the galleries with her mix of style and panache.
Known as the Pink Panther (Creamer loves pink), the American was just age 15 and still an amateur, came second eight shots behind. Lorena Ochoa, the bubbly Mexican, was third.
Creamer was delighted to win by such a large margin in such a high-quality field. She admitted: “I was very nervous at the beginning. The best players in the world were here and it’s tough to imagine that I could end up being so far ahead of them”.
The Evian Masters is always setting new standards and it became one of the first tournaments to include the new Rolex Rankings into its selection criteria.
Also new in 2006 was the Evian Masters Training Centre, a state-of-the-art concept where the players can get down to serious practice. The purse, a record $3 million, was exceptional.
Michelle Wie, age 16, played at Evian for the first time as a professional and she was soon locked in battle with two veterans as Karrie Webb and Laura Davies upheld the honour of the older generation.
In the end, Webb triumphed by one shot with Davies and Wie tied in second. It was the Australian’s first Evian Masters victory and it marked a welcome return to form – plus a move up the Rolex Rankings. Webb summed it up. “I’m really thrilled”, she said.
Having spent its early years as a tournament where every competitor played all four rounds, the Evian Masters decided to change format, increasing the field to 90 players and introducing a cut for the first time.
The Evian Masters Junior Cup – won by Japan and featuring golfers from 14 nations aged under 14 – also made its debut and yet another major change was made, moving the final round to Sunday, which had been traditionally set aside for the most glamorous Pro-Am Rolex in women’s golf. Talking of glamorous, the Evian Masters winner was Natalie Gulbis, the America with the centerfold looks and the wide smile. It was her first tour victory and it came after a play-off with Korea’s Jeong Jang.
Gulbis was delighted. “What does it mean?” she was asked. “How long do you have?” she replied. “It’s a whirlwind. Wasn’t it great?”.
Never has a final round been as intense as the one in this 15th edition of the Evian Masters, where no fewer than three play-off holes were needed to decide the champion. An unheard-of event ! Three players, only one crown : Helen Alfredsson, Angela Park et Na Yeon Choi. At the end of an incredible day, Helen Alfredsson hoists the trophy once more, fifteen years after her 1st victory and 10 years after her second time. World No.1 Lorena Ochoa (coming in 5th), Cristie Kerr (6th), former Evian Masters champions Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster (9th) complete a top 15 strongly dominated by the Koreans who, once again let slip a title that has yet to appear on their record list.
2009 marks the expansion of Asiatic golf with Ai Miyazato’s victory and the successive victories of Asiatic women players the following years at the Evian Masters.
Yet another action-packed competition. Becky Brewerton, Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Sophie Gustafson as well as In-Kyung Kim, Evian Masters Ambassador 2009, took turns at the top of the leaderboard during the 4 rounds of the competition. After the final 72 holes, only Ai Miyazato and Sophie Gustafson were still on top and entered into a play-off to decide the winner. With a birdie on the 1st hole, Ai Miyazato took the title, 12 years after her compatriot Hiromi Kobayashi. “I wanted to achieve what she achieved. I wanted to be a champion. I respect her (Hiromi Kobayashi) a lot and feel very proud as another Japanese player to have done the same'' the new champion said.
2010 marks the creation of the LPGA Global Media Awards. That same year, the field gets wider. 111 players, versus 90 last year, tee off in their pursuit of the 17th Evian Masters. The world’s elite of women’s golf, representing 22 nations. By the time the last group heads into the 18th on Sunday, four players are topping the leaderboard at -13: America’s Morgan Pressel and young compatriot Alexis Thompson, just 15 years old, together with South Koreans Na Yeon Choi and Jiyai Shin. But with one last birdie, 22 year-old Jiyai Shin carries off the 17th edition, securing its first-ever Evian Masters win for South Korea.
2011 marks above all the announcement that the tournament becomes a Major in 2013, by Mike Whann, LPGA director, Franck Riboud, the Evian Masters Chairman and Jacques Bungert, tournament Director.
Boosted by this amazing announcement, the world’s golfing elite (25 nations waged a splendid battle. The American Stacy Lewis was on impressive form, but a bogey on the 16th during the final round ruined her chances, leaving the way open for Ai Miyazato, leader since the 3rd round. The Japanese player completed her round without a false move to add a second title to her Evian Masters win in 2009.
Before embarking on its new adventure as a Major, the Evian Masters is celebrating its 18th anniversary. 18 years of success, enthusiasm, great golf and conviviality between the players and its wide public, novices and golf enthusiasts.
The final was action-packed, with eagles, a hole-in-one and six players neck-and-neck for the title, Asian players Inee Park, Shanshan Feng and Hyo Joo Kim and the Americans Stacy Lewis and Natalie Gulbis and Australian player Karrie Webb. The title seemed intended for Stacy Lewis, in the lead since the 1st round. But that was without contending with the performance of the day from Inbee Park, who with 8 birdies, claims the final Evian Masters title. This riveting edition put the spotlight on both very young players of the future, including amateur player Hyo Joo Kim and Cheyenne Woods, alongwith former determined tournament champions, Karrie Webb, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer. A nod to the past, like a symbol, at a time when the Evian Masters is preparing to enter into a new dimension… En route for The Evian Championship 2013 !
Continental The Evian Championship 2014 exceeded all expectations. It all began on the first round with a magnificent 61 (10-under), both a course record and an historic lowest score in a Major. And who was behind this exploit? A young 19-year-old Korean, already a star in Asia. Hyo Joo Kim forced the world’s elite to pull out all the stops in the hope of winning the event, while herself erring on side of caution during the next two rounds. On the final day, her followers forced her to come out of her comfort zone to offer a display of top-level golf. Caught up by Karrie Webb, Evian champion in 2006, Kim gave it her all on the 18th, creating the opportunity to make the winning putt. Delight for another champion too. Michelle Wie, the best player at the end of the 5 Majors of the season, was awarded the Rolex Annika Major Award on the 18th green at the Evian Resort Golf Club.
The Evian Championship 2014 exceeded all expectations. It all began on the first round with a magnificent 61 (10-under), both a course record and an historic lowest score in a Major. And who was behind this exploit? A young 19-year-old Korean, already a star in Asia. Hyo Joo Kim forced the world’s elite to pull out all the stops in the hope of winning the event, while herself erring on side of caution during the next two rounds. On the final day, her followers forced her to come out of her comfort zone to offer a display of top-level golf. Caught up by Karrie Webb, Evian champion in 2006, Kim gave it her all on the 18th, creating the opportunity to make the winning putt. Delight for another champion too. Michelle Wie, the best player at the end of the 5 Majors of the season, was awarded the Rolex Annika Major Award on the 18th green at the Evian Resort Golf Club.
The year 2015 was one best represented by youth.
And the least that can be said is that the winner was a reflection of this. By winning the Evian Championship at only 18 years, 4 months and 20 days, the New Zealander Lydia Ko has become the youngest winner of a women’s major in golf history. Ko, who has already set a number of records in her young career, seemed to come out of nowhere on the last day after sneakily hiding back with the rest of the pack earlier in the tournament. Her class, talent and spirit did the work over the last 10 holes on Sunday, where she eventually finished 6 strokes ahead of the young American runner-up Lexi Thompson. In a tournament where much was expected of Inbee Park (who won the Rolex Annika Major Award before the final major even started), she was left to watch Ko take the crown… and potentially cement her place as the probable heir to the throne of women’s golf.
In Gee Chun did not waver once on her road to win The Evian Championship 2016. In the lead from the start to finish of the tournament, the 22-year-old Korean captures her second Grand Slam title, following the US Open 2015. Chun now has two LPGA titles to her name, two Majors!
It's an all-Korean podium at the 23rd Evian Championship. Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ruy tie for second place on 17 under par, four shots behind the winner. China's Shanshan Feng, one of the favorites to win at the start to the week following her fine performance in Rio (bronze medal winner), takes 4th place. There are five Koreans in the top 6 places on the final leaderboard. In Gee Chun nevertheless remains the first Korean to win a Major in 2016.
With a blazing final round of 66, which enabled her to close the 5-stroke gap, as did her opponent in the play-off Brittany Altomare, Anna Nordqvist claimed victory in the first hole of the play-off which took place in the pouring rain. The 30-year-old Swedish champion, an essential member of the European Solheim Cup team, captures her second major. She is the first European player to win a Grand Slam event since Suzann Pettersen... in Evian, in 2013, and Anna Nordqvist in 2009 at the LPGA Championship!