Carly Booth has never been shy about getting herself noticed. The Comrie golfer, after all, once bared all for ESPN’s ‘Body Issue’ along with Gary Player. It’s been way too cold on the Ayrshire coast this week for any repeat of that, but, as she’s showing by playing with a pink golf ball in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, Booth is still not scared to put herself out there as being different from the crowd.
“I just like the colour,” she declared after controlling the Volvik ball, the same brand now used by two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, around a windswept Dundonald Links to good effect to be among just 17 players out of 156 to break par in the second round of the £1.2 million event, which reached the halfway stage with American Cristie Kerr leading the way from Australian Karrie Webb after they swapped places from the start of the day.
As the wind gusted to up to 30mph almost from start to finish, pride of place undoubtedly went to one of Booth’s playing partners, Frenchwoman Joanna Klatten, as she carded a four-under-par 68 that, given the conditions, was every bit as impressive as Rafa Cabrera Bello’s closing 64 that helped him win the men’s equivalent at the same venue just under a fortnight ago.
However, the 25-year-old Scot had good reason to feel equally pleased with her day’s work, especially as this is just her fifth event of the season due to playing opportunities on the European Tour having been few and far between in the first half of the year.
“This morning was crazy windy,” said Booth, winner of this event at Archerfield Links in 2012, after signing for a 70 to sit joint-11th on one-over, six shots behind Kerr. “I played really solid golf tee to green and I played solid yesterday, too. But, after having 35 putts yesterday, I had just 27 today, so that’s the difference.”
Having been four-over after four holes in the first round, Booth can feel proud to be leading the home challenge into the weekend, when the Saltire is still being flown as well by two-time winner Catriona Matthew and Sally Watson in the strongest field by far in this event, part of the LPGA schedule for the first time this year.
“I started off on Thursday by missing some five-footers and, when that happens, you just don’t get the confidence in your round, you’re always pushing or trying too hard,” she added. “So, today it was just about being confident, getting into a quick rhythm and sticking to it all the way.”
After also winning the Swiss Ladies Open five years ago, Booth finished fifth on the LET money-list before dropping to 106th 12 months later. Slowly but surely, though, she is starting to get back to her best and, helped by a tie for eighth in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco earlier in the year, she’s exempt for next week’s Ricoh Women’s Open at Kingsbarns along with Matthew, Kylie Henry and Pamela Pretswell. “I changed my coach in October and something I’ve worked on this last eight months is improving the bad golf,” she said. “My good golf is always great and now the difference I find massively is that my bad shots are not that bad anymore. I’ve worked hard on my short game as well, so it’s just a general improvement.”
Booth, who was pleased to finish her round by making par from close to where Callum Shinkwin took a 6 in that men’s event when a par would have given him victory, is excited to be heading into the weekend in contention.
“This was my first tournament win,” reflected the Manchester-based player, “and I’d like to have my hands on the trophy again. I always love coming back to Scotland, and I’m really looking forward to next week as well.”
Klatten, a 32-year-old Parisian who is based in Dallas, sits just five shots off the lead after her eye-catching performance, the highlight of which was an eagle-3 at the 14th. “Joanna played awesome today,” said Booth of Klatten, who, with an average of 287 yards, hits the ball further than the likes of Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez. “She hit some massive drives, turning them into chip and putt holes. We both played really solid and it helps to push each other.”
With the scale of the test being reflected by just six players sitting under par after 36 holes, Kerr leapfrogged Webb by using all her experience to salvage a respectable second-round 73 after being four-over for the day with six to play. “I didn’t hit it that great today, but my caddie and I managed the golf course well, and we made the recovery shots when we needed to,” said the 39-year-old after reaching the halfway stage on five-under, a shot ahead of Webb, with Korean duo Sei Young Kim and Sun Young Yoo a shot further back in joint-third.
Webb, who had started the day with a one-shot lead, was disappointed to finish bogey-bogey for a 75 – ten shots worse than her opening effort. “I fought really hard to be just one-over with two to go, but then made couple of bad swings that resulted in a couple of bad tee shots,” reported the 42-year-old. “But, if you had given me four-under before I teed off yesterday, I would have taken it. It’s only Friday night so there’s a long way to go, but any time you have a chance to win is special.”
Matthew, who had a rare day without a birdie in her second 74, sits nine off the lead, one better than Watson after a battling 70, which was made by a front nine of 32, saw her bounce back brilliantly from an opening 79. Agonisingly, Michele Thomson missed out on joining her three compatriots in the final two rounds after finishing with five straight bogeys in her 77.