Made a dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Laura Davies is proud of her new title. But the award she really craves is a second Ricoh Women’s British Open.
At 50, the four-time major winner is the oldest player in the field at Royal Birkdale. But she remains one of the most fervent competitors and still has the self-belief needed to claim her 81st career title.
“The enthusiasm is still there,” insisted Davies, who won the 1986 Championship at Birkdale, 15 years before it gained major status. “I’ve not given up on winning the big tournaments but I need to hole some putts. That’s what has been holding me back and it is so frustrating.
“I always love coming back here and have great memories of my win. I had a five-shot victory and it all seemed so easy.”
As to her damehood, she is thrilled. “It’s an unbelievable thing to have happened, quite extraordinary,” she said. “I would never use the title myself but it’s definitely the best thing that has happened in my career.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, 17-year-old Lydia Ko is the youngest in the field and one of the most serious challengers. The top amateur in the Championship for the past two years, she turned professional last November and is now the world No 2. This season she has had seven top tens on the LPGA Tour, including a win in San Francisco in April.
Still to complete a photography assignment before graduating from High School in New Zealand, she and her family are now based in Orlando in Florida. She wants to go to university, but where and when remain a mystery.
A three-time winner of professional events as an amateur, Ko reckons she has just followed a trend instead of setting it. “I don’t feel too young to be out here,” she insisted.
“Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson and Paula Creamer were all on Tour when they were very young and I think it was good for me that I wasn’t the first one. Lucy Li (aged 11) played in the US Women’s Open last month and so she made me feel very old.”
Davies’ inkling is that the teenage prodigies will be long gone before they reach her grand old age. “Because of Tiger, everybody who comes out now has nutritionists and coaches and mind coaches,” she pointed out. “That’s just modern golf and the way it is for these girls. But I seriously doubt whether they will be playing into the forties or fifties.”
Creamer, who joined the Tour as an 18-year-old and won the 2010 US Women’s Open, does intend to have a lengthy career, but she is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Scot Catriona Matthew and combine family and golf.
Looking forward to her December wedding, she openly admits she wants a family. “But I want to do both and keep playing as long as I can,” said the American. “Catriona is one who has proved it can be done. She’s an awesome Mum and it has worked because of the relationship she has with her husband Graeme. He doesn’t come out on Tour so much and I love seeing her Skypeing her two girls and talking to them. It’s all about getting the balance right.”
At 44, Matthew is one of the veteran brigade but she is certainly capable of repeating her 2009 victory at Royal Lytham and St Annes. The world No 15 starts out just before lunch today.