RARELY during her ten-year professional career has Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing had such a spring in her step, which could augur well for her hopes in the World Ladies Championship starting tomorrow at Mission Hills in China.
With the line-up being headed by world No 1 Inbee Park and second-ranked Suzann Pettersen, it’s going to be a tall order for either Laing or her four fellow Scots to get themselves in the mix this weekend.
But, having followed up a strong finish to last season by racking up 19 birdies in two rounds to finish second behind women’s amateur world No 1 Minjee Lee in the Victoria Open in Australia 11 days ago, the one-time golden girl of Scottish golf is brimming with confidence.
“It’s really hard to put my finger on the exact reason for my good finish last year and my solid start this year,” admitted the 32-year-old. “The best I can offer you is perseverance. The solid finishes just reinforce that the work you’re putting in is paying off and that good feeling keeps you going and wanting more. It’s a fun cycle you want to continue.”
A record four-times Scottish Girls’ champion – she also played in the Curtis Cup as an amateur – Laing cut her professional teeth playing on development circuits in America. She posted three runners-up finishes on the Ladies European Tour in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, only to find herself back at the Qualifying School after slipping to 121st on the money list at the end of 2012.
She finished a more respectable 59th last year after making ten cuts from 13 starts, the pick of those performances seeing her finish joint eighth in the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. Now those closing rounds of 66 and 67 in Australia have marked a promising start to her 2014 campaign.
“To make 19 birdies on the weekend is a record for me, so it’s nice to keep showing improvement,” she added. “Golf is a funny and humbling game at times, so I’m just enjoying the good results when they come and taking it one tournament at a time. I’m really just trying to be more consistent.”
Laing, who hasn’t exactly made a fortune from the game over the past decade and described her support from sponsors DST Ltd as “awesome”, is hoping to achieve that consistency with the help of Archerfield-based coach Gary Nicol. “I haven’t been working a great deal with anyone but have had a few lessons with Gary over the past couple of years. I like his simple approach to the game,” she declared.
Joining the East Lothian woman in the field for a tournament which consists of three events in one – an individual professional competition, a professional team tournament and an individual amateur contest – are Carly Booth, Pamela Pretswell, Kylie Walker and Heather MacRae.
For MacRae, who just missed out on securing a full-time step up to the LET through her endeavours on its development circuit last season, the trip is offering the Dunblane woman a glimpse of what might have been.
“I’ve never played in China before but I actually got offered a teaching job at Mission Hills a couple years ago, which made it really exciting for me to come out here,” she said. “I have been practising really hard and training hard in the gym since the turn of the year, so I’m ready to get started.
“I’m looking forward to carrying on from last season, when there were so many positives to take and I learned so much from putting myself in good situations several times.
“I had a game with Catriona Matthew at Archerfield Links a few weeks ago after she got in touch with me after Tour School to say she thinks she can help me get to the next level. So I picked her brains. I first met her a couple years ago and, ever since, she’s been great at giving me support and advice.”
Matthew, meanwhile, will be pleased with the news that Sky Sports has struck a new deal with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) to cover the three women’s majors played in the United States, plus at least four LPGA Tour events each summer for the next two years. “It’s great news that Sky Sports is showing more women’s golf,” said Matthew’s teenage Solheim Cup team-mate, Charley Hull, providing her reaction to the announcement.