TRISH Johnson now has a clean slate at Archerfield Links in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Ladies Open.
She’d made amends for the first in a series of slip-ups in the event when winning the team title 12 months ago with football pundit Alan Hansen, having deprived the former Liverpool and Scotland defender of that prize previously when making a scorecard error.
Even sweeter, though, was her success yesterday in winning the main event after twice squandering last-round leads on the Fidra Course, first letting in Frenchwoman Virginie Lagoutte-Clément in 2010 then, two years later, opening the door for home player Carly Booth.
On a sun-kissed day on the East Lothian coast, Johnson started out with a six-shot cushion and, though that lead was halved after just six holes by exciting Scottish prospect Sally Watson, there was never really any likelihood of Johnson letting another winning opportunity slip from her grasp in the £205,000 event.
“I think this tournament owes me one,” said the new champion, who signed off with a one-over 73 for a seven-under 209 for a two-stroke success over Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera, the 2008 winner. “If I’d thrown this one away, with a six-shot lead, I would have been pretty gutted.”
Johnson is no stranger to success on Scottish soil, having been part of the winning Solheim Cup sides at Dalmahoy (1992) and Loch Lomond (2000). She was also victorious at Fairmont St Andrews this year on the Paul Lawrie Ladies’ Tartan Tour, but this was her first Ladies European Tour triumph in the game’s cradle.
Adding to its significance, the 48-year-old from Bristol also became the oldest champion on the LET, claiming the record from compatriot Laura Davies, who was 47 when she captured the Indian Open in 2010.
“It was a difficult one out there today due to having such a big lead,” added Johnson, who earned just over £30,000 for her wire-to-wire victory, having opened with a 66 then adding a 70 on Saturday. “I wasn’t trying to defend it but I think I did a bit, which was disappointing. I also didn’t putt as well as I had in the opening two rounds, but I think that was down to not having the same mentality.”
Given that she’d nearly pulled out of the tournament with a back injury, Johnson’s 19th LET career victory came as something of a surprise. “I wasn’t expecting this,” she admitted, after finishing with a seven-under-par total of 209, two less than Nocera (69), with Watson (70) a further stroke back in third place alongside Australian duo Rebba Artis (66) and Stephanie Na (67).
“I had very low expectations and I guess that worked for me. I didn’t have a practice round and I didn’t play until Friday morning and probably played one of the best rounds of my life on Friday. I’m chuffed to bits.”
It was also a good event for Watson as a season’s second top-three finish, which earned her around £11,300, kept the 24-year-old from Elie on course to be crowned the LET’s Rookie of the Year.
“The fact I’m a bit disappointed with a third place finish can’t be bad,” said Watson, who was still in with a chance of making it four Scottish successes in a row in the event after picking up a birdie at the 14th only to have her momentum halted by back-to-back bogies straight after that.
“I know there is plenty of room for improvement so that is the exciting thing going forward,” added the former Curtis Cup player. “It was always going to be a tough task trying to come back from six shots behind but this was another good experience for me.”
After putting themselves out of the reckoning with matching 77s on Saturday, Kylie Walker and Catriona Matthew bounced back with closing efforts of 72 and 70 respectively to both finish inside the top 15.
“Although it was a lot easier today, I played better but made two silly three-putts on the back nine,” said Matthew, the defending champion.
While Johnson claimed one title, she lost another. This year’s team winners were England’s Holly Clyburn and her amateur partner, six-handicapper Richard Bevan. On 24-under, they finished three clear of Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal and Jonathon Shinton.
After five years at Archerfield Links, this event is moving to Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, where it will have a new slot – the week before the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry – and a doubled prize fund next July.
It’s to be hoped, however, that the Dirleton venue will be considered as part of the tournament’s future because it has become popular with Johnson and her fellow LET players. They’ve learned that Archerfield Links is right up there with more established locations when it comes to tournament venues.