Maria Verchenova is a pioneer in the world of Russian golf. Heck, five years ago there was no world of Russian golf! Now, Maria is the only Russian playing on the Ladies European Tour - or, for that matter, on any other non-feeder tour around the world (the Kostina sisters play on the Futures Tour).
A couple weeks ago, she told the Times of London how she got started:
"My dad took me to the Czech Republic when I was 12 and we went for a coffee at a golf club," Verchenova said. "The next day we went back and I tried hitting a few balls with a local coach. He said I had a talent for the game and I should play. When I got back we went to Moscow City Golf Club and that's how I started.
"I didn’t even know what golf was when I was young because my family was poor and everybody in Russia is focused on tennis. But thanks to my parents I was given a chance."
After several strong showings in European national amateur championships, Maria earned her LET card and 2007 was her rookie season. She had one Top 10 finish that year, but had to return to Q-School to earn back her status for 2008.
How's it going this year? Verchenova finished 11th at the DB Ladies Swiss Open and fifth - her best showing to date - at the Tenerife Ladies Open. She's had some ups and downs this season, but her LET card is secure and, as I write this, she is tied for third after two rounds of the Dubai Ladies Masters.
As for what the future holds, Maria told me that she hopes to enter LPGA Q-School at the end of 2009, with LPGA membership in 2010 the goal.
More Maria Verchenova pics