Having been among the first to greet the news, Catriona Matthew is looking forward to welcoming her fellow LPGA players to East Lothian next summer when Gullane stages its Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open double-header.
As reported exclusively in The Scotsman yesterday, the men’s and women’s events will be staged at the same venue on Scotland’s Golf Coast over a three-week period, replicating the ground-breaking arrangement at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire next month.
The men’s event, which is returning for a second time after Rickie Fowler proved a popular winner in 2015, will be played on July 12-15, with the same composite course then being used for the women’s tournament on July 26-29.
The events will precede the respective Open Championships, with Carnoustie staging the men’s event next year while the women’s tournament takes place at Royal Lytham, where Matthew claimed a major victory in 2009.
The North Berwick woman, a two-time winner when Archerfield Links staged the Scottish event for five years before moving to Dundonald in 2015, is excited to see the tournament returning to her local patch in what will be its second year on the LPGA schedule. The Scottish No 1 said on Twitter she felt “proud” that Gullane is staging the £1.2 million event and also told The Scotsman how excited she is to be playing in a Scottish Open at the venue where she won the last of three Scottish Women’s titles in 1994.
“I’m looking forward to 2018 already,” said Matthew. “I’ve obviously got some good memories from winning a Scottish Amateur at Gullane just before I turned professional and it will be special to play in a joint-sanctioned event, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, who have been so good to me over the years, at one of my home clubs.
“It will be a fabulous venue with a top-class field playing a great course. It will be a special two weeks for me, first playing a Scottish Open at Gullane then going on to Royal Lytham, which, of course, holds very special memories for me, for the Ricoh Women’s British Open.”
Edinburgh-based American Beth Allan, who topped the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit last season and also now holds an LPGA card, also welcomed the exciting announcement. “It is awesome news,” she said. “I’m actually playing at Gullane tomorrow with Pammy [Pretswell] and Kylie [Walker]. I am a huge fan of golf on the east coast, so I am very excited.”
Some course changes have been made since Fowler won with a 12-under-par 268 total in 2015. The approach to the eighth green, for instance, has been made “more friendly to running shots” and the putting surface itself raised at the back left after it was felt that good shots were rarely rewarded and poor ones often ended up better off – which was how it was for the 2015 Scottish Open.
That project also offered the club the opportunity to improve the visibility of the green at the short ninth from a new back tee by harvesting sand and allowing the area between the tee and the green to be lowered, creating an open sandy area similar to what has been created at Turnberry, as well as Royal Troon.
A new back tee has also been added at the tenth, perched above the rocky face dropping down to the beach. The long-term plan there is to realign the fairway so that the hole becomes a slight dogleg.
“We had a great tournament with a great winner in Rickie in 2015,” said Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert. “Gullane is a spectacular course and together with our tournament partners (the Scottish Government and European Tour) we will continue to host our events at the best possible venues.”
Gullane captain Willie Biggart added: “We are well placed to be able to deliver a top-class championship venue which is in touch with all the requirements of the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour in the 21st Century.
“The course offers classic links golf with perfect seaside lies on our fairways, fast-running greens and challenging bunker positions. The course will once again provide a true links challenge that will be enjoyed by the world’s golfing elite. We look forward to welcoming both events to the club.”