Kelsey MacDonald is doing her best to stay positive. It’s not that easy, in fairness, when you are faced with another season of long spells without any tournaments, as seems almost certain for a second year running on the beleaguered Ladies European Tour.
As things stand, next month’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco is the only upcoming event confirmed for the circuit, which has consisted so far this season of a handful of co-sanctioned tournaments in Australia and South Africa.
Chairman and acting CEO Mark Lichtenstein along with LET board members turned down what was reported to be an offer of significant financial help from the LPGA, European Tour and R&A last year on the back of the 2017 schedule being left threadbare due to a number of planned events being cancelled.
That raised hopes that there was real optimism at the LET about this season, but maybe not. “We are supposed to be getting an email next week to give us our summer schedule but, from what I have heard, it’s not looking good,” said MacDonald.
“Between Morocco and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open [at Gullane in late July], it doesn’t look like we have any events, which is unfortunate. That’s the middle of April until the end of July. That’s a huge gap. I’m just hoping the end of the season will be jam- packed like last year.”
MacDonald, a former Scottish Women’s champion, saved her best until last in 2017, producing a strong performance to finish joint-11th in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Her only outing since then was in the recent South African Women’s Open and it’s going to be a real struggle again trying to keep competitive.
“I thought it would be better,” added the 27-year-old, speaking as she was named for the second year running in Team SSE Scottish Hydro. “There was talk there would be more in Europe, but it does take years to build relationships with sponsors and countries and we just have to hope that the next couple of years it will be a solid schedule.”
In contrast, the men’s European Tour has already staged more than a dozen events this season, with around 30 more to come. “The men’s tour is a different world,” admitted MacDonald. “I do think there is a lot of talk between the LET and the European Tour, I think they want to help. The event in Morocco, where we play events simultaneously on different courses at the same venue, is a good success and the now with the GolfSixes I think they are trying to build.”
Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew is joining forces with Thomas Bjorn, the Ryder Cup skipper, in that event in early May, while another mixed tournament on this season’s schedule is the European Team Championships at Gleneagles in August. That’s one of MacDonald’s main goals, though securing a spot in the Great Britain team is going to be difficult if there aren’t many tournaments before the qualifying cut-off.
“It’s hard but it’s the same for everyone,” said the bubbly Nairn woman. “You just have to stay positive and try to be competitive. I might try some Access Series events or mini-tour events to get that edge sharp and try to be competitive.
“It’s difficult, especially at the Scottish Ladies Open as the LPGA Tour girls are coming in after something like seven weeks of events in a row. That’s very hard for us to compete against girls who are playing week in week out.
“I don’t get despondent. I just have to keep working on my game. The process hasn’t changed, it’s just unfortunate the schedule has changed. Ideally, I want to be in America. That is still the goal and I have to keep working.”
Since it was launched in 2011, the Team SSE Scottish Hydro initiative has helped Scottish players secure seven European Tour cards, mainly as Challenge Tour graduates, as well as two Ladies European Tour and four Challenge Tour victories.
“This support is hugely important for me,” admitted MacDonald, who is flying that particular flag this time around with three players hoping to make their mark on the Challenge Tour this year – 21-year-olds Ewen Ferguson and Robert MacIntyre and 24-year-old Grant Forrest.
“Just because the season is a bit unpredictable with events, this backing is a really good confidence boost to have so early. I can go to the other side of the world to compete without the worry.”