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Beauty no handicap for Russian golfer

Russia’s top female golfer, Maria Verchenova, believes that the game is not only about hitting the ball into the hole, but looking good as well.

Maria Verchenova has arguably been one of the biggest commercial attractions in women's golf, since she turned professional in 2006.The 25-year-old Muscovite remains the first, and only, Russian playing full-time on the Ladies’ European Tour. This following an impressive amateur career that included victories in the Russian, Austrian, Latvian and Slovenian Championships.“My first year was tough because I got on Tour and I was the only Russian player. Half of the girls were English, British and Australian and it was tough to get myself good mates. You know – in the end of the day – they’re playing against me,” she said.   Verchenova showed great improvement in her second year on the tour with her career-best finish – tied for fifth place in Spain – and posted a career-low round of 66 in Dubai.As a result, the Russian finished 55th in the tour rankings in 2008 – still her best placing so far.And despite having some injury problems, she is still ambitious, and has plenty of goals to achieve with her new coach.“Definitely, I’ll play for another five years because I don’t know how long my back will give me a chance to play golf. But we set up some goals – winning events in LET and, hopefully, get to LPG and win down there, win a major. And [then] I can go,” Verchenova said.    Professional golfers spend most of their time traveling from one tournament to another, which can be the hardest part of their job.However, while in search of success on the Ladies European Tour, many funny stories have arisen. “I said: ‘I don’t mind staying in a cheap hotel for a few days.’ I put my pajamas on and went out to the bathroom, came back and my room was completely locked from the inside. There was a wedding outside. I went outside and all the guys were like, ‘Oh, cool, we’ve got a stripper this night,’” she laughed.Despite pretty modest results over the last two years, Verchenova remains optimistic and focused on golf.However, the 1.76-tall brunette attracts a lot of attention, not only with her performances on the fairways, but obviously also because of her appearance.“I attract more attention. I try to bring something more in golf that the girls would look like females, at least. It’s getting better and better now. So many young, beautiful, attractive girls getting into golf,” the Russian said. Verchenova is indeed a pioneer in a sport, which is widely considered to be a hobby for wealthy people in her homeland, and there is still a long way to go before being accepted as a mainstream sport in Russia.But with the likes of Verchenova, the country could not ask for a better ambassador to lead the fairway.

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