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Blomqvist wins LET Rookie of the Year

Minea Blomqvist from Finland took the honours as the Ryder Cup Wales Rookie of the Year on the 2004 on the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour.

The 19-year-old Finn achieved the award in record breaking fashion and with bags of style at the end of season Catalonia Ladies Masters.

Despite bold efforts from her nearest challengers Linda Wessberg from Sweden and Becky Brewerton from Wales, Blomqvist retained her lead after the final event and added her name to a veritable who's who in women's golf of previous recipients of this coveted title, which includes World number one Annika S ö renstam, Laura Davies and Helen Alfredsson.

"It has been a lot of fun this year and much more than I expected and it means a lot to me to win this award as there were some very good players as rookies this year," said Blomqvist, who finished in seventh place on the order of merit.

In an incredible maiden season, Blomqvist became the third youngest player in the history of the LET to win an event at just 19-years and 128 days old when she cruised to victory at the OTP Bank Central European Open in Hungary, an event in which she equalled the LET record of the lowest ever score of 62 in her first round.

Two weeks later, Blomqvist announced herself on the world stage with an incredible performance in front of millions of viewers around the globe when she carded her second 62 of her fledgling career in the third round at Sunningdale.

In doing so, Blomqvist became the first player, male or female, to shoot ten under par in a major championship and went on to finish in a tie for eighth in her first major.

"There were lots of good memories this year such as playing with Annika in Finland at my home course and especially winning in Hungary. But at the British Open, that is my favourite day, for sure. The previous day I shot 78 and I went from being in contention for the title on the first day, to nearly missing the cut.

"I was on the range trying to figure out what went wrong and I began crying and my coach was telling me to calm down and when I started to speak again I began to cry again.

"But when I found out I had made the cut I actually said to one of the Finnish newspapers that I don't see any reasons why I can't go out and make nine or ten birdies the following day because I had such a good feeling with my game.

"It was really exciting and even going into the press centre and being on TV, it was really a lot of fun."

What makes Blomqvist's achievements more incredible was that just over 12 months ago, the platinum blonde was playing amateur junior golf, the highlight of which was when she helped steer the European Junior Solheim Cup team to their first victory over the USA when the teams met at Bogskogens GC in Sweden.

"One of my team mates at the Junior Solheim Cup was Louise Stahle who played really well in the British Open and in Sweden this year and we laughed about maybe becoming the first junior players to play in the 'Big girls' Solheim Cup next year. I don't think she is turning professional yet, but I know that I want to be playing in Solheim Cup next year.

"It is one of my goals but to play in this event, I think I will need to work very hard at my short game so I will be practising very hard during the winter with my coach Pia (Nilsson). I want to play in it, but I have to become a better player, too."

After the victory over the USA in Sweden, Blomqvist turned professional and attended LET qualifying school with great expectations to gain a card with ease. However, all did not go well and she had to settle for a conditional card to play on the LET.

But after spectacular performances with two victories on the Nedbank Women's Golf Tour in South Africa prior to the LET season starting in Europe, the Finn became an obvious choice for sponsors' invitations.

"I have to say, I was very lucky as I didn't have that may opportunities to play, so when I did get an invitation, I had to play well.

"Every tournament I was way down the list and often the last player to get in to the event so I have been really lucky. I thought I might get five or six events and if I played well, I may get some more wild cards, which I did and then of course, the win in Hungary gave me a three year exemption."

Blomqvist, who idolises the World's best women golfer and who also shares the same mentor and coach in Pia Nilsson, wants to play with the best in the world and have cards on two Tours next season.

But with her family in Finland and her boyfriend Roope Kakko, a European Challenge Tour player, it will make life difficult for the teenager.

Naturally, Blomqvist will want to play with the best players in the world, but the youngster some pundits are now calling 'Minni Annika' has admitted she loves the atmosphere on the LET and wants to stay as long as possible.

"My boyfriend plays in Europe and I already miss him when I am away for one week," she laughed.

"I went to LPGA qualifying school last week and I said to myself that I don't want to come here yet because the European Tour is so much fun and the people are so nice. When you go to the range in the morning everyone says hello and it's much more fun and I really like that.

"Maybe it will happen, but I want to play most of the season in Europe if I can and hopefully I will get two cards."

In presenting the award, Rob Holt, the managing Director for Ryder Cup Wales said of Blomqvist:

"We are proud to be associated with this prestigious award and it truly is a fantastic achievement for Minea in her first year.

"To go from playing Junior Solheim Cup to where she is now is really an unprecedented occasion and hopefully Minea will get into the main European Solheim Cup team.

"Naturally, it would have been fitting for our own Becky Brewerton to bring the award back home to Wales, but she has been pipped by a truly outstanding performance this year by Minea.

"It has also been a great rookie year for Becky and we hope her performances will inspire the growth of women's golf in Wales at a young level. But most of all, with such a disparity of nations competing for the best newcomer award, women's European golf has a lot to look forward to in the future."

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