WHILE pride of place in women’s golf over the weekend undoubtedly went to Lydia Ko as the talented teenager chalked up her first win as a professional, an announcement about next season coupled with some encouraging performances provided cheer, too, for the Scottish ladies’ game.
It’s a pity Ko, who missed out on close to $2 million in prize-money as an amateur but won the $1 million Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan in just her second start in the paid ranks, won’t be there as the New Zealand-based 16-year-old would be a real crowd-puller.
However, North Berwick’s world No 11, Catriona Matthew, won’t have far to travel once again in her bid to complete a hat-trick of wins in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open after it was confirmed next year’s event is staying at Archerfield Links.
It will be the fifth season in a row that the East Lothian venue has hosted the tournament, though in moving back a touch – to 29-31 August – it has taken over the slot on the Scottish schedule that became available next year due to the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles being put in storage to accommodate the Ryder Cup.
“As proud supporters of Scottish golf we are very happy to be entering into our sixth year as title sponsor of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open,” said Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management. “Having supported Scottish golf for over 15 years we are really looking forward to what 2014 has in store and to play our part of a great sporting year in Scotland.”
While it has failed to attract the support it deserves, especially considering it is free to enter, the event, which has a unique pro-am format on the Ladies European Tour, is popular with Matthew and her fellow players.
“The Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open is a key event on the Ladies European Tour and we are delighted to continue our relationship with the tournament as part of our commitment to bringing world-class golf events to Scotland every year,” said Paul Bush, EventScotland’s chief operating officer.
“Scotland is known throughout the world as the ‘Home of Golf’, and events like the Ladies Scottish Open are hugely important as we look to build on what will be a very special year in 2014 for Scotland and Scottish golf.”
In addition to Matthew, another player excited about getting a chance to play on her doorstep will be Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing, who was pleased to finish her 2013 campaign with a top-ten finish in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Third on her own after picking up two early birdies in the final round at the Emirates Golf Club, Laing’s hopes of landing her maiden LET title disappeared after she ran up a double-bogey 6 at the ninth. She then dropped two shots in her last three holes for a closing 76 to finish on two-under, but a cheque for around £10,000 – her prize for eighth spot – meant it had been a decent week’s work for the former Scottish Girls’ champion.
“It’s nice to get a top ten again,” she said of an effort that resulted in her climbing to 59th on the final money list, pipping compatriot Pamela Pretswell by a spot in the battle to finish as the next best Scot on the LET behind Matthew.
“It was a tough day today, but I would probably have taken my final position at the beginning of the week.”
Laing finished the year with earnings of just under £29,000, beating rookie Pretswell by around £250 after the Bothwell Castle player closed with a 76 to finish in a tie for 46th in the Emirates.
Kylie Walker, the other Scot in the season-ending event, finished just behind Pretswell to claim 74th on the money-list, which secures her card but, in a bid to improve her ranking, the former St Rule Trophy winner is off to Morocco this week to play in the LET Qualifying School.
Also bound for Marrakech is Heather MacRae after her hopes of earning promotion off the Access Series Order of Merit disappeared as Spaniard Mireia Prat slipped from a share of the first-round lead to 49th at the finish in Dubai.
Joining Walker and MacRae in the card battle will be two other exempt players, Pamela Feggans and Kelsey Macdonald, as well as a quartet successful at the pre-qualifying stage in Rabat.
Former Scottish Women’s champion Heather Stirling finished second in her event, closing with a 75 on the par-72 Blue Course at Royal Dar Es Salam, while Sally Watson was fifth at the Red Course, where qualifiers included Michelle Thomson.
Watson, who was in the qualifying zone from start to finish, signed off with a 77, three more than former Curtis Cup team-mate Thomson, who showed guts and determination to progress after opening with potentially-damaging opening rounds of 85 and 81.
Ko closed with a three-under-par 69 to finish on 11-under in Taiwan, winning by three shots from world No 5 So Yeon Ryu. The win earned the South Korean-born player $181,000, having already picked up $20,000 for a top-25 finish in her first start on the LPGA Tour last month.
“Two tournaments and two cheques – I’m pretty happy with that,” said the teen sensation.