If 2016 was Beth Allen’s annus mirabilis as the Edinburgh-based American won twice in topping the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and also earned a card for the LPGA, then 2017 was definitely her annus horribilis.
Burdened somewhat by expectation and then losing confidence in her putting at the height of the season, the 36-year-old suffered a frustrating year as the momentum she’d built up over the previous 12 months was halted in its tracks.
On the circuit where she played most of her golf, Allen finished 110th on the LPGA money list while she slipped from No 1 to 89th on the LET Order of Merit, though, in fairness, that was partly caused by the fact she teed up in half the number of events in 2016.
“It’s been tough and a year ago things were much better golf-wise,” admitted Allen, who moved into a new flat on Leith Walk with her wife, former LET player Clare Queen, just before Christmas.
“I started quite well. I had a top 10 in the Australian Women’s Open in my first LPGA event and then I made five cuts in a row. But then I lost some confidence in my putting. That’s not ideal. Because I holed so many putts in 2016, that almost made it worse last year.”
She really struggled in the middle of the year, when a string of missed cuts included early exits from the US Women’s Open, Ladies Scottish Open and the Women’s British Open. Ironically, while LET players found themselves twiddling their thumbs for much of the campaign due to last year’s schedule being threadbare, Allen was crying out for a break but couldn’t risk taking one.
“Obviously you don’t want the stop-start that they had in Europe last year but, when I played full-time there in 2016, you had chances to work on your game with breaks between events,” she said. “On the LPGA, you are playing every week and, if you’re struggling, you don’t have time to sort it out. You could go home, but then you feel like you’re losing ground on everyone else. It was tricky.”
Helped by two top-30 finishes towards the end of the season, Allen was able to opt out of the LPGA’s Qualifying School. “I still have a decent status for next season,” she declared. “It’s not full, but there are so many events, I’ll probably get 12 to 15. I’ll get the Scottish (which is being played at Gullane for the first time) and probably the British, too. I needed a break and I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2018.
“I’m determined to get back to the level of form I showed the previous year. I was trying to stay afloat last year and in 2018 I won’t have the big expectations after such a good 2016. This year, I can just be myself without any extra attention or burden. I’m not a different player, I just had putting issues. I’ll sort it out, it won’t take much.”
What 2018 will bring for LET players has still to be revealed, though hopes seem high of a better schedule than last year, which will be good news for Catriona Matthew, the European captain, in the countdown to the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.
“I think it was maybe pure luck that I had the chance to go to the LPGA Q School last year because I was playing so well,” reflected Allen, speaking at an Aberdeen Standard Investments golf clinic at the Braid Hills Golf Centre in Edinburgh. “I love it over here and I was never that keen to go back to the US. I just thought: why not give it a go? I was playing that well but perhaps I got lucky with the timing given the way the LET ended up going this season.
“I feel for the LET. I’m on the board. It was tough being out there and seeing what was happening here. I do care for the LET, it was a shame and in a sense it may have been a bit distracting for me.
“I hope we can get it better because I still plan on playing both tours. That’s what I set out to do last year but didn’t really have the chance because they weren’t many events on the LET. Hopefully the LET can get a stronger schedule, particularly with the Solheim Cup in 2019. It’s important for the players. They will have a better chance of getting the experience.
“Catriona will be a great captain and I know she’s familiar with the European players. But you have to play to get in a groove and compete and qualify for these things. We had a strong team last year, but it was hard for the girls. Georgia Hall and Florentyna Parker got invitations to play elsewhere to keep going, but it shouldn’t be like that. We should have enough events to sustain a really good player so they are competitive everywhere.”