Golf: Kylie Walker’s resolve finally seals glory

KYLIE Walker was due to see Lady Luck smiling her way in a play-off. She’d lost one herself a week past Monday, when trying to secure an alternate spot in next month’s US Women’s Open.

Kylie Walker is all smiles after winning the Deloitte Ladies Open in Holland on Sunday in a sudden death play-off. Picture: AFP/Getty

Her boyfriend, Scott Henry, had endured the same agony eight days earlier when the Madeira Islands Open title was on the line.

In the circumstances, the 27-year-old from Drymen did well to overcome the thought that the omens might be against her in her bid to beat Kiwi Nikki Campbell and Dane Malene Jorgensen in a sudden-death shoot-out at the Deloitte Ladies Open in the Netherlands on Sunday.

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“What happened to Scott wasn’t on my mind but losing a play-off myself a few days earlier certainly was. It was a different day and a different tournament, though, and I went out there determined I wasn’t going to lose out on this occasion,” reflected Walker.

Having waited patiently to see her professional career take off, how appropriate it should happen at The International near Amsterdam Airport, where Walker secured her breakthrough on the Ladies European Tour in her fifth season chiselling away at that particular coalface.

It earned her around £30,000 – more than she won throughout either 2012 or 2013. She has jumped up to seventh on this season’s money-list and, as adequate compensation for missing out on the US Open, has now secured berths in two other majors – the British Open and Evian Masters – later in the year.

“It’s not quite sunk in yet because it’s all been a bit crazy since Sunday,” admitted Walker, a two-times winner of the St Rule Trophy – it takes place at St Andrews, its permanent home, this weekend – as an amateur. “It was exactly the feeling I expected it to be and even the last few holes was fantastic to be involved in. I loved all of it.

“For the most part since turning professional, I’ve believed that I could make that breakthrough and believed in what I’ve been working on in my game with my coach, Kevin Craggs, and the other people in my team.

“There’s been small patches where I’ve hit form but also there are times when you do start to think, ‘am I ever going to get that win?’ It’s great that all the hard work has paid off.

“I’ve felt for a while now that my game has been good and, also, I’ve felt comfy with it, which is very important, too. It’s just not quite showed – until Sunday – and it is brilliant to get that win.”

Leader by two after the opening round, Walker still had her nose in front heading into the last circuit and, though caught by both Campbell and Jorgensen, she showed mental toughness to win the play-off by holing a 20-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole.

“I’m really delighted with the manner that I did it,” she added. “It has answered a lot of questions in that respect and I am really proud of how I handed things. I felt really comfortable throughout. I never felt any fear about leading or throwing it away. I was really enjoying it.

“It is great to pick up a big cheque that has rocketed me up the money-list. I feel that I can kick on from here. I’ve got three weeks off now but I’m already looking forward to getting back out there again in Slovakia.

“This win gets me into both the British Open and the Evian Masters, which is so good. To have opened these doors is really great.”

Craggs, of course, also works with Scottish No 1 Catriona Matthew, who made a brave effort to make it a “Super Sunday” for the man who is the SLGA’s national coach before eventually finishing joint-third in the LPGA Airbus Classic in Maine, Alabama.

“I’ve been working with Kevin for four-and-a-half years,” said Walker, who is attached to Mar Hall in Renfrewshire. “We linked up just before I turned pro, though I’d known him for a lot longer than that through the Scotland squads.

“It’s been great. I feel the improvements we’ve made together have been crucial as they’ve turned me into a better player. Although it has been gradual, I definitely feel I’m a better player now than I’ve ever been. I’m delighted for Kevin and the others in the little team that I have around me and all my sponsors. It’s as much a reward for them as me.”

Having just finished playing in a Challenge Tour event in Austria, Henry was among those waiting on tenterhooks as the play-off in the Netherlands took place.

He was delighted by the outcome and now Walker is hoping a win could also just be around the corner for the former Scottish Stroke-Play champion.

“Scott has been playing pretty well himself,” she said, having been among those willing the Clydebank man on when he just failed to make the play-off won by Tommy Fleetwood in last year’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

“He got into the play-off in Madeira and that was a great effort. He’s so supportive of my golf and we make a good wee team.”

Out on Tour, there’s also a team spirit evident among the Scottish contingent. Normally the sort of celebration reserved for the French – certainly in the men’s game – Walker was showered in bubby by three of her compatriots after clinching victory.

“It was great because Vikki Laing, Pamela Feggans and Pamela Pretswell were all out supporting me and came running on the green to spray me with champagne,” she said. “It is so nice to feel support from the other Scottish girls and we are all definitely feeding off each other at the moment. Vikki is having a really good year as well. I think it’s great that we spur each other on.”