Liz Young, the golfer who organised a competitive event for sister members of the Ladies European Tour and ended up with the eight-strong Rose Ladies Series, was bemused. At 37, she had been included on the shortlist for a prestigious Sports Marketing Surveys scholarship which was designed to support a Rose Series player who needed a helping hand to prepare for the 2021 LPGA Q-Series.
Tickled though she was to get a mention, Young dismissed out of hand the idea that SMS would want to give the £7,500 prize to someone of her age and the mother of a 3-year-old daughter to boot.
It was a few days later, shortly before she was leaving the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, that she had another e-mail from SMS. This one bore the believe-it-or-not news that she was the winner.
“I’ve always been passionate about trying to improve,” she said, “and now I feel like I’ve got a golden ticket.”
Only when she was safely home in Hampshire, England, did she tell her husband, Jonathan. There was a momentary silence before he said, “You know what? You deserve it.”
Young took rather longer to get to grips with her good fortune. And when she finally did, this most unassuming of golfers realised that this was absolutely the right time in her life for such a thing to happen.
“I’ve always been passionate about trying to improve,” she said, “and now I feel like I’ve got a golden ticket.
“I know from what I did at the Rose Series (she had three second-place finishes) that my swing’s better than it’s ever been and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to Sports Marketing for giving me this opportunity.”
In announcing the award, Stephen Proctor, the company chairman who had gifted the £7,500 prize-money himself, said the result acknowledged not just Young’s results but the degree of initiative she had shown in getting the series under way. “Without (her initiative),” said Proctor, “so many aspiring players would have had no competitive play.”
The Rose Ladies Series, which was an equivalent of the Cactus Tour in the United States which helped Sophia Popov to prepare for the AIG Women’s Open, could scarcely have had less significant beginnings.
Not too long into the lockdown, Young – who had but five top-10 finishes to her name in 12 years on the LET – decided that the fun of hitting balls into a garden net was beginning to pale. “What am I practising for?” was the question she kept asking herself.
The answer at that point was that she was working away for nothing since LET tournaments were being cancelled by the day. However, with much the same happening on many of the men’s tours around the world, she had what can only be described as a eureka moment of the highest order.
“I’ve always had my heart set on improving women’s sport in general as much as my own golf and, in my own quiet way, I was thinking what it could mean if we could get back playing competitively when no-one else was,” Young said. “The media would almost certainly take a bit of notice.” (They took rather more than a bit of notice, with the series getting one television mention after another throughout both the Scottish and Women’s Opens.)
Concurrently, she suspected, correctly, that were she to run a tournament for the LET players at her home club Brokenhurst Manor, there was a good chance that other players would want to do the same at their clubs.
Jason MacNiven, the founder of the Golf Principles fitting studio at Brokenhurst, advised Young that an old-fashioned “roll-up” tournament would work best, one in which the girls would each contribute £125 towards the prize pot.
Brokenhurst liked what their long-standing lady member was trying to do and duly offered free starting times for 47 players for June 18.
The LET chipped in with ideas on early publicity and, in among the early responses, there was a FaceTime call from Kate Rose, the wife of 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. They had read of what Young had in mind and wanted to contribute £35,000 towards turning the Brokenhurst event into a series.
With the Roses behind the operation, things became more exciting by the day. Young, for her part, turned out to be that character whom everyone has in mind when they talk of a busy person being the best bet when there are a host of jobs to be done. She became organiser, promoter and spokesperson in addition, of course, to playing herself.
On most of the tournament days she would be up at 6 in the morning to speak to the BBC and still up at 10 at night to talk to Sky Sports, which had agreed to cover the run of events. “Whoever wanted an interview got it,” said Young. “I knew that every bit of publicity could help our cause.”
The reason, incidentally, why interviews and speeches came so easily to her was down to her years at the University of Iowa. “In one of my modules, I was forced to do public speaking, and I’ve been fine about it ever since – always assuming I know my subject.”
Her multitasking was never more to the fore than on that first day at Brokenhurst. That was where she lost out to a Charley Hull birdie at the first extra hole before organising a prize-giving at which Kate Rose handed over £10,000 to Hull and £2,250 to Young. Going on from there, her other runner-up spots were behind Meghan MacLaren and Georgia Hall, while only once through the eight weeks did she finish outside the top 10.
“I love being busy,” Young said, “and all the more so since I had my daughter, Isabel. Pre-motherhood, I practised all day and every day. After it, my practice was restricted, only what I did was a whole lot more focussed. Focusing was what I did so well during the Rose events.”
She also picked up tips from the top players. “On the day I went out with Charley,” she said, “I asked myself what she did better than me and it was blatantly obvious that her short game was sharper than mine. I’ve told Stephen Proctor that that’s what I’ll be working on, first and foremost, by way of preparing for that 2021 qualifying school.”
Young wasn’t the only one to learn from the stars. She had included amateurs in each of the events so that they could do the same. “I wanted them to experience what I would love to have experienced in my amateur career,” she said, noting that almost every one of the girls in question got in touch to thank her at the series’ end.
The professionals, too, thanked Young for the miracles she had wrought, and they thanked the Roses for getting behind them. Meanwhile, there were plenty of plaudits for the host clubs who had made them so welcome as to suggest they wanted them back.
At the very end of this glorious burst of sporting life amid COVID-19, there was that horrendous fire alongside Wentworth’s ninth hole which brought the last event in the Rose Series to a premature close.
Yet even on that otherwise dark day there was a lighter moment as one observer was moved to pay a special tribute to Young, the publicist.
“Come on now, Liz,” a friend said, in a reference to the spectacular array of photographs which spread like the flames themselves. “Isn’t this taking things a bit too far?”