Is Europe Catching Up to America In Women's Golf?

I suspect the European Solheim Cup team from 2011 would answer that question from the title with a resounding "yes!"

But I was struck by something when looking at the year-end women's world rankings. In the Top 50, at the end of 2012, there were more women from European countries than from the United States.

Here are the golfers in the Top 50 from each side of the Solheim Cup:

3. Stacy Lewis
11. Cristie Kerr
12. Paula Creamer
18. Brittany Lincicome
19. Angela Stanford
24. Lexi Thompson
29. Brittany Lang
38. Morgan Pressel
6. Suzann Pettersen
14. Catriona Matthew
16. Azahara Munoz
28. Anna Nordqvist
32. Karine Icher
33. Sandra Gal
40. Caroline Hedwall
48. Caroline Masson
50. Carlota Ciganda

On the American list, only Lexi Thompson can be thought of as an "up-and-comer." But on the European side, there are three such youngsters: Hedwall, Masson, Ciganda (some might even include Munoz, but I think she's too well-established by this point).

And while it's true that the American list is missing some golfers who will probably be back inside the Top 50 - Michelle Wie, for example - the European list is missing those Solheim Cup stalwart Swedes Maria Hjorth and Sophie Gustafson.

Europe, as a whole, has more than twice the population of the United States. That's one reason - demographics, pure and simple - that men's pro golf in Europe has largely caught up to men's pro golf in the USA. But golf has penetrated more European countries on the men's side than the women's. There are still plenty of European countries, largely in Eastern Europe, where women's golf is barely played.

But even if you look only at those countries in which women's golf is well-established, the populations are similar between the USA and Europe. Which means that if participation rates are the same in both regions, then the overall quality - the depth of the talent pool - should even out between European and American women's golf, too.

I think we're starting to see signs that that is what is happening.

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