Another successful Solheim Cup – Europe replaced the 15-13 start of the Americans at the Inverness Club – underlined once again the intrinsic drama and excitement that go along with team events and playing for their own country. It’s easy to argue that the 31-year-old’s games represent the most influential event on the LPGA calendar when the excitement of players and fans about women’s golf notoriety is combined.
Overshadowed by the competition in Toledo is the fact that the tour is hosting a second team competition, in which not only players from the United States and Europe, but also from the rest of the world will participate.
However, the status of the International Crown, having played it three times from 2014 to 2018, is questionable as multiple sources with knowledge of the planning of the event say Golf Digest was likely to be the last. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the tour canceling the 2020 edition, which was to be played at the English Centurion Club, and no future date has been set for the competition.
Not long after the 2020 cancellation, UL dropped out as the event’s title sponsor. And while the tour officials tried to find a replacement, their efforts were unsuccessful. Still, they hope that the event can be revived.
“We are incredibly grateful for UL and their partnership with the LPGA and the International Crown,” an LPGA spokesperson told Golf Digest. “Although the 2022 event will not be on the LPGA Tour calendar, we want to keep this opportunity alive for our world-class athletes to represent their countries on the international stage.”
Unlike the other three professional biennial “Cup” events, where two teams compete against each other, the International Crown included participation from eight countries that qualified based on the world rankings of their best players. It was an award advertised as a hallmark of the event, but it also brought with it a quirk that might have been too much to overcome. While Spain won the first competition in 2014, the country was unable to qualify for the 2016 tournament (which was won by the US) as it was no longer in the top 8 in the world.
Mind you, the chance for players outside of Europe and the US to represent their country was hugely attractive when the LPGA unveiled the event in 2013, and this continues to be for players outside of the Solheim Cup countries who hope that the International Crown does not go away forever.
“It’s nice to work with the girls,” said So Yeon Ryu, who played for South Korea when she won the last game of the event in Seoul in 2018. “Having one more goal, the teams for UL International Crown, was very motivating for all players. I would really like to have this tournament again if we can.”
The structure of the International Crown, in which the top countries would compete against each other, was a focus from the start. As former LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said in the press release announcing its creation in 2013, “Only countries that have produced the best women’s teams can participate and only four players from one country are invited”.
The key, however, was four players. Since the inception of the Crown, New Zealand has the fourth highest LPGA wins (14) of any country and Canada the sixth highest (10), but no nation has competed. That’s because the country’s talent hasn’t trickled down from its top stars, with Kiwi and former world number 1, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson, the most successful Canadian female golfer in the country’s history, for every home win during that time were responsible. However, through no fault of their own, some of the top stars of the LPGA were unable to take part.
“I love that kind of team atmosphere,” said Ko. “It felt like, ‘Man, I wish I could be part of this event.’ You know, jealous of the other girls playing. “
The inclusion of golf in the Olympics has given the LPGA’s top professionals a new opportunity to play for their country, which may take away some of the appeal of the International Crown. Ko took advantage of the Olympic platform and was the only player to win two medals, with her silver medal in Rio in 2016 and her bronze medal in Tokyo last month.
Despite the event’s shortcomings, some still have high potential for the International Crown to provide a global showcase for the game’s emerging talents.
“I feel like we could market and promote our tour and our players better [with the event]”said Ko.” I have a feeling that there are so many talents and so many great players that we can really showcase.