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Feb 14

Flags of the Tour

Flags of the Tour On Display at Australian Open

The Australian Open finished its second round today, that is to say tomorrow, taking time zones into account, and as I study the LPGA web site leader board, a few observations jump out at me. For example, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall and Australia’s Minja Lee were leading late in the day – there’s no big surprise there, but I noticed that Suzann Pettersen is back, imposing as ever. It’s never hard to find Suzann. I think she leases the top tier of the leader board for the duration of the golf year. I also noticed that Cheyenne Woods did not in any way tank, fold or shoot a 93 when the world’s best showed up, but rather shot a second round of 65 – I’m impressed and happy for her.

Flags of the TourFlags of the TourAs a zealous fan of internationalism in golf, another feature of the tour’s web site fascinates me, and that is the inclusion of the national flags that accompany the names of each native daughter playing in the tournament. Golf, after all, is a difficult and elegant version of capture the flag anyway, and I became fascinated with the styles and origins of these varied banners.

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Our Swedish leader plays under a flag that sports a gold cross, perhaps from the national coat of arms in 1442. Apparently, when King Eric IX set foot on Finnish soil on one of his Crusades, he saw a gold cross in the sky. If Hedwall keeps playing like this, she’s going to see some gold as well.

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Australia’s flag, represented by Minja Lee, features six stars representing six British colonies. The design originated in a design contest, but Edward VII changed it, and then everyone else took their try with it, until everyone was confused – except Minja Lee, who seems to know exactly what she’s doing.

flag 3Flags of the TourSuzann Pettersen’s Norwegian flag has quite a history, but ancient Norway didn’t fly a flag, except in battle. Harald Hardrade flew a banner of the raven, but Erik Magnusson must have seen Pettersen in a vision of the distant future, and flew the banner of a lion with an axe (I don’t know, it guess it could have been a six-iron) and a crown – also known as the “Norwegian lion[ness].”

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Yan Jing, up near the top after round two, is represented by the Chinese flag, with four small gold stars encircling a large fifth one. It could represent many things, diverse ethnic groups, regions, etc., but with China being off to such a fast start in the game of golf, that big star sure makes me think of Shanshan Feng.

Lydia Ko’s New Zealand designed the first flag to incorporate the Southern Cross constellation. It’s a young country, but as we can see by Ko’s play so far, precocious. In ’79, a silver fern was recommended, inspired in part by Canada’s maple leaf. The silver fern never caught on, but Lydia won the Canadian Open twice as a teenager as a gesture of courtesy.

Flags of the TourFlags of the TourFurther back is South Africa’s Lee Ann Pace. Her flag was a point of negotiation as Nelson Mandela was released from prison in the early 1990s. It was hard won, and it’s a great feeling to see South African golfers continuing to appear in all the major venues.

Becky Morgan’s Wales flies the red dragon, possibly the standard of King Arthur. Colombia, represented by Mariajo Uribe, sports a field of yellow covering half of the design, with blue and red below. The colors speak of the gold in the hills, the blue of the seashore and the blood of the heroes that fought for Colombia’s freedom.

The inspirations are endless, but in a month where the flags of the world are flying in the Sochi Olympics, it seems like a good time to take note of them on the LPGA tour as well.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.