MARBELLA may be her new home and a windy photoshoot out in the cold on a balcony above Princes Street definitely left her yearning to be in the Spanish sunshine yesterday.
But Carly Booth’s heart lies firmly in Scotland and she’s passionately proud that her first big professional win was delivered on home soil.
“It was the perfect first victory,” said the 20-year-old Comrie player of landing the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies’ Scottish Open at Archerfield Links in East Lothian almost exactly a year ago. “For my first win to be in Scotland, at home with my family there, will always be a special memory.”
Booth was speaking as she joined Catriona Matthew, the 2011 winner, at the announcement of a new two-year sponsorship of the Ladies European Tour event by Aberdeen Asset Management, which helped bring the tournament out of cold storage at The Carrick on Loch Lomond in 2008 and has watched it blossom at its new home in East Lothian over the past three years.
Its equivalent on the men’s European Tour, which is also now sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management in a joint arrangement with the Scottish Government, is set to move on from Castle Stuart after this year’s event, with a move to Royal Aberdeen in 2014 possibly being the start of it embarking on a nationwide tour in a bid to showcase Scotland’s rich golfing hotbeds.
Due to its popularity with both players and sponsors, however, there are no plans for the ladies’ event, which is unique on either the LET or the LPGA Tour due to it adopting a pro-am format throughout its 54 holes, to follow suit. “We have been happy with the set up at Archerfield and the way the event is designed – it suits us fine,” said Douglas Connon, the company’s head of corporate events.
“Our clients certainly enjoy it. This is not a sexist comment but they can relate a bit better to the ladies’ swings than the men’s. We identified a few years ago that the ladies’ event would be a good vehicle for us and that’s been the case, judging by the comments.” Concurring, Booth said the feedback she’d received from fellow players was positive and she personally “loved” both the event and venue.
Taking place from 30 August to 1 September, the £183,000 tournament is back in a more traditional late-season slot, having been moved last year as part of a shuffle caused by the London Olympics. “The key aspect is weather,” added Connon. “It’s pretty Baltic just now. Last year, it was unbelievably cold and people were wrapped up as if it was the middle of winter.
“In terms of where it is now, it has to fit in with the ladies’ programme. Catriona is more on the world stage, so there are not many gaps for us. The general feeling now among greenkeepers, as at today, is that courses in Scotland are four weeks behind where they should be. Given that, holding something in May in Scotland is maybe a risk.”
Both Booth, who is sharing an apartment in Marbella with her boyfriend, European Tour player Tano Goya, and Matthew have the Solheim Cup in their sights before the Archerfield event comes around. Matthew, bidding to make the European team for a seventh time, has made a “solid enough start” but Booth needs to recapture the form that earned her two LET wins last season to secure a debut appearance against the Americans in Colorado.
“This is a new year and my goal is to keep winning,” she said. “I really wanted to get off to a great start, but that hasn’t happened. But there’s a long way to go. I’m staying focused and positive. I just have stay patient. We’re getting into a main run of European events and I want to get into a rhythm.”
That proved almost impossible in a two-ball round in Turkey last week that took five hours. But, while Matthew admitted slow play is a problem on both the LET and the LPGA Tour, she insists it is no worse than in the men’s game and insists it would be wrong to read too much into how long rounds take in the Women’s British Open at St Andrews later this year.
“It’s slow on our tour, too,” said the winner of that event in 2009. “The LPGA penalise a bit more than the men’s tours. But whether it’s helped speed it up, I don’t think so. So many people are into their pre-shot routines and they can’t get ready until it’s their turn. All these bits mount up. I don’t know what they will do to address it.
“It can be difficult at St Andrews due to the double greens, etcetera. But I don’t think the ladies are any slower than the men. It can just be a difficult course to get round.”