If recent history is anything to go by, the leading amateur at this year’s AIG Women’s Open has every chance of enjoying a stellar career in professional golf.
Each year, the Smyth Salver is awarded to the amateur player who records the highest finish in the Championship, providing at least one non-professional makes the cut.
Rose Zhang, who sensationally won on her professional debut last week, was the most recent winner of the Smyth Salver at Muirfield in 2022.
Our new three-part series takes a look at the last 15 players to have claimed the honour – and the considerable success they have gone on to achieve in the paid ranks.
First up, we look at the Smyth Salver winners from 2005 to 2010.
2005 - Michelle Wie West
Three of the first seven editions of the Championship were won by amateurs, but it is easy to argue that the most spectacular performance by a non-professional came in 2005 courtesy of Michelle Wie West.
Wie West not only claimed the Smyth Salver at the age of 15, but finished in a tie for third at Royal Birkdale.
Only Jeong Jang and Sophie Gustafsson were able to finish ahead of the precocious teenager, who followed up an opening-day 75 with scores of 67, 67 and 69 to share third with Young Kim.
Incredibly, Wie had already recorded top-four finishes in two previous majors and finished ninth in the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship at the age of 13.
A successful professional career predictably followed, highlighted by victory in the US Women’s Open in 2014, the fourth of her five successes on the LPGA Tour, and five Solheim Cup appearances for the United States.
Wie West, who stepped away from the professional game last year, also claimed another third-place finish at the AIG Women’s Open at Kingsbarns in 2017.
2006 – Amy Yang
Another teenage Smyth Salver winner, Amy Yang had just turned 17 when she finished as the leading amateur at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2006.
By that point, the South Korean was already a winner on the Ladies European Tour, having triumphed in the ANZ Ladies Masters that February.
Yang has gone on to earn close to $11m on the LPGA Tour, with three of her four wins on the circuit coming at the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2015, 2017 and 2019 respectively.
A consistent performer at the highest level, she boasts 20 top-10 finishes in majors, including a tied-fourth placing in this year’s Chevron Championship.
Yang’s best outings at the AIG Women’s Open came in consecutive years in 2010 and 2011, when she finished tied-fifth and fourth respectively.
2007 – Mel Reid
Mel Reid was 19 when she followed up success in a number of high-profile amateur events – and an appearance in the 2006 Curtis Cup – by finishing in a tie for 16th at St Andrews in 2007.
Eight amateurs made the cut that year, but Reid was comfortably the best of the bunch and finished on four-over, just two shots outside the top 10, to secure the Smyth Salver.
The English player turned professional later in the year and has claimed six titles to date on the Ladies European Tour [LET], in addition to a maiden success on American soil at the 2020 Shoprite LPGA Classic.
Her best finish in the AIG Women’s Open so far was recorded at Turnberry in 2015, where she finished in a tie for ninth.
2008 – Anna Nordqvist
Along with Georgia Hall, Anna Nordqvist is one of only two players to have earned a quite stunning quartet of triumphs on British soil.
The Swede won the Girls’ Amateur Championship and the Women’s Amateur Championship prior to claiming the Smyth Salver at Sunningdale in 2008.
Nordqvist then completed the set with an emotional victory in the 2021 AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie.
That success was Nordqvist’s third in a major, following wins in the 2009 PGA Championship and 2017 Evian Championship. As a result, she is the only non-American to have won a women’s major in three different decades.
Nordqvist’s glittering career also features nine LPGA Tour victories and seven successive appearances in the Solheim Cup. She also recorded the competition’s first hole-in-one with an ace that won a foursomes match in 2013.
2010 - Caroline Hedwall
Nordqvist’s partner when she made the Solheim Cup hole-in-one was her good friend Caroline Hedwall, another player who has followed her Smyth Salver triumph with significant achievements in the professional game.
A four-time Solheim Cup participant, Hedwall claimed a maximum five-point haul at the event in 2013.
Three years earlier, she finished in a tie for 27th at Royal Birkdale, pipping Sakura Yokomine to the Smyth Salver by a single stroke.
Hedwall has since claimed seven wins on the LET, including four in the space of eight months during a spectacular 2011 season that saw her crowned as the circuit’s player and rookie of the year.
However, the Swede is still waiting for a first top-20 finish at the AIG Women’s Open, with her Smyth Salver-winning placing in 2010 still her best performance in the Championship.