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  • Alistair Tait

Time for Scottish Golf to Shine

Louise Duncan wasn’t even born the last time a Scottish player won the Women’s Amateur Championship. No wonder the Ayrshire native was surprised she’d become the first Scot to win the title since Alison Rose in 1997.

Duncan deserves all the kudos and opportunities coming her way: a place in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, another major appearance in the Amundi Evian Championship, plus two trips to United States next year to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open. Just rewards for a fantastic 9&8 victory over Iceland’s Jóhanna Lea Lúđvíksdóttir, and all the more rewarding since she did it at Barassie Golf Club, not far from her home club West Kilbride.

“I was emotional as soon as I won but I think it has sunk in a wee bit and I am over the moon. I wasn’t even born in 1997: I wasn’t even a thought. So I am unbelievably proud to be the first Scot to win the Women’s Amateur Championship in that amount of time. I am happy to have brought it home.”

Duncan wasn’t the only one cock-a-hoop at result. As the tweet below shows, European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew was also overjoyed.

Duncan is an R&A Scholar and a student at Stirling University, where she's coached by former European Tour player Dean Robertson. The 1999 Italian Open winner is the university’s High Performance Golf Coach. He’s done an excellent job bringing students through the programme.

Maybe, just maybe, Scotland needs more set ups like Stirling’s to help women succeed. A look at the all-time wins by country in the Women’s Amateur Championship places Scotland second to England with 17 victories since the championship was inaugurated in 1893. An English player has won the title on 54 occasions.

The win tally is obviously helped by England’s larger population, but many would argue the gap should be closer considering Scotland is the Home of Golf.

Quite why the country that invented the game has struggled to produce women’s champions is worthy of a PhD thesis. Not just in amateur golf but professional golf too. Matthew’s 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open victory was notable for two reasons: it wasn’t just her first major victory, but a first for Scotland. She remains the only Scottish woman to win one of golf’s marquee events.

It doesn’t seem that long ago players like Kathryn Marshall, Mhairi McKay, Janice Moodie, Dale Reid and Pamela Wright were vying for Solheim Cup places alongside Matthew. Yet Matthew has been the lone Scot in the European team since Moodie’s 2009 appearance.

Matthew captained a side at Gleneagles two years ago without a Scot coming close to making the team. She will probably do so again this year. Scotland doesn’t have a woman golfer within the top 250 of the Rolex Rankings. Gemma Dryburgh is currently the highest ranked player on that list at 268th. Michele Thomson is next in line at 528th.

This isn’t a knocking piece against those Scottish women trying their utmost to move up the rankings, to try to emulate Matthew’s success. Far from it. However, the dearth of women at the top level is not a great look for the country that gave the world the greatest game ever invented.

Players like Duncan need role models like Matthew to follow, players who inspire them. Matthew has done that on her own for far too long. Hopefully Duncan and others who performed well at Barassie – like semi-finalists Shannon McWilliam and Hannah Darling – can go on and put Scottish women’s golf back on the map.

The Home of Golf has been punching below its weight for far too long. It’s time for Scottish golf to shine.

#JustSaying: “I cannot describe it; I am very happy with myself and proud of myself to achieve and go this far.” Runner-up Jóhanna Lea Lúđvíksdóttir, the first Icelandic player to reach the final

Photograph courtesy of the R&A

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