It didn’t need Dutch courage. Anne van Dam, after all, had just made a flying start in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open. An eight-under-par 63 in the opening round at The Renaissance Club earned the 23-year-old from Arnheim a share of the lead. More of the same and she’ll secure an automatic spot in the European team for next month’s Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.
Golfers normally voice gripes about courses or the way they are set up after a bad round, but not on this occasion. In speaking up, Van Dam, in fact, went as far as claiming that the LPGA and LET, the two bodies that co-sanction this event, had been “disrespectful” to some of the world’s top players by drastically reducing the yardage for the first circuit at the East Lothian venue.
Apparently due to a fear of the wind strengthening later in the day, tournament officials moved up five tees, including three by 40 yards or more as they shaved 195 yards in total off the intended layout for the $1.5 million event.
That left them playing a course measuring only 6,148 yards, which was around 1,000 yards shorter than the one planned for the men’s equivalent at the same venue four weeks ago before something similar happened due to flooding on certain parts of the course on the opening day.
“It’s such a good golf course and I’m disappointed to see them moving forward some of the par-5s and par-3s,” said van Dam, who took full advantage of the first, for, instance, being cut by 40 yards to make her second eagle of the day, having earlier made one at the 12th after starting at the tenth.
“On a day like today, the weather was just perfect. I saw no need to do that. I’m curious about it. You’re talking about the best players in the world in the female game. I don’t think we need any short courses, not at all. If it’s a day like tomorrow, when it rains a lot, fine. I can understand some movements. But a day like today, I’m just disappointed.”
Asked if the decision had been disrespectful, she added: “100 per cent. I was talking to Suzann [Pettersen, one of her playing partners] about it. It makes no sense why you should put two par 3s forward about 40 yards. I hit a wedge at the third.”
While Van Dam came into this event sitting third in the European rankings for the Solheim Cup, it is estimated that no fewer than 12 players could still knock her out of one of the automatic spots come Sunday night. Having racked up three wins on the LET over the past two years to get into this position, she is determined that won’t happen as she bids to become only the second Dutch player after Christel Boeljon (2011) to play in the biennial event.
“Yeah, I think I did that,” she said when asked if, in a round that also included seven birdies, she had made a statement in the company of Pettersen, one of Catriona Matthew’s vice captains. “Overall, it was just a good day and it was good to take care of things. It’s a big week, final week of the points. But all I can do is play as well as I can and I have played really well the last two years now.”
This latest eye-catching effort – she described both her eagles, the first a 6-iron to three feet and the second a 5-iron to four feet, as “very easy” – set the pace along with 2017 winner Mi Hyang Lee from Korea and American Jane Park as they made the most of benign morning conditions before a light breeze picked up in the afternoon.
Lee ignited this effort with an eagle at the 12th before adding six birdies in a bogey-free round. With strong winds and rain forecast for the second round, the 26-year-old from Seoulsaid: “When I see the forecast, today is like best day and tomorrow is worst day. So my plan was try to make a lot of birdies and I think I did, so I’m really happy.”
Park, a 32-year-old from Chicago, made her score with seven birdies, including a burst of four in a row from the fourth. “I had a pretty crappy warm-up this morning on the range,” she said. “I just had a feeling, it’s probably going to be a good day, because whenever I have a crappy warm-up, you honestly stop thinking about things. You stop thinking about mechanics. You just go out and hit shots.”
As her sister, Moriya, shot a 64 to sit fourth, defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn is lurking ominously after a 68 while, on an encouraging day for Solheim Cup contenders, Swedish trio Caroline Hedwall (65), Anna Nordqvist (67) and Madelene Sagstrom (67) are all in the top 15.