Talk about shouting it from the rooftop. “Scotland is my favourite place in the world,” declared Georgia Hall in the sort of statement that is always music to the ears of tourism chiefs. “I absolutely love it,” she added. “I love holidays there, I love how pretty it is, the countryside, amazing views, everything really. I would love to live there as well.”
While that might well happen one day, the Englishwoman will be content for the time being with trips north of the border for events like the AIG Women’s Open, which is being held for the first time at Royal Troon this week.
Hill landed her maiden major victory in the event at Royal Lytham two years ago and, though that success will always be hard to top, a victory in the home of golf would certainly come close.
“To win in Scotland, especially on a links course, would be awesome,” said the 24-year-old. “I think the best courses in the world are in Scotland. Everybody loves golf over there and the best fans come from Scotland.”
Those fans will have to be content with a seat in front of the TV, with the first women’s major of the year being played behind closed doors and in a “bio-bubble” on the Ayrshire coast.
For many in the field, the R&A event will offer a first chance of tackling the iconic Postage Stamp, but not Canadian Brooke Henderson, another of the players teeing up this week.
“I played in a pro-am in 2015 with two members at Royal Troon, so that was really fun for me and just learning how beautiful and tough a golf course it is,” said Henderson, a nine-time LPGA Tour winner, including the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship.
“I think one of the really cool things is, a few years ago, I played a replica course, Golden Ocala in Florida, where the Postage Stamp was one of those holes. So I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to play the real Postage Stamp again.”
Catriona Matthew, the 2009 winner who triumphed at Troon in the Helen Holm Trophy in her amateur days, is in a field that also includes fellow Scots Carly Booth and Gemma Dryburgh, with LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan delighted the event is going ahead.
“I feel bad that the men lost the Open Championship and the Senior Open, but I am really honoured that the R&A was able to figure out how to play the Women’s Open,” he said.
“Even the women I talked to who were on the fence about coming over to Scotland in the current climate, there’s no doubt that Royal Troon was enticing them.
“I said to them that they had to want to be there, be comfortable being there and feel they can play their best golf. We are going to celebrate the folks that are there but, as with all the events at the moment, we are certainly not going to be offended by those who chose to stay at home.”
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