Louise Duncan says AIG Women's Open top 10 is 'possible again'

She may be playing as a professional this time around but, fuelled by the memories of her amateur dramatics at Carnoustie 12 months ago, Louise Duncan is aiming to thrill the home fans again in the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield.

Louise Duncan pictured during a practice round prior to the AIG Women's Open at Muirfield. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.
Louise Duncan pictured during a practice round prior to the AIG Women's Open at Muirfield. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

Playing in her first major after winning the R&A Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie), the West Kilbride player finished joint-tenth behind Swede Anna Nordqvist in the 2021 edition.

That earned Duncan an exemption for this year’s event and she’s teeing up in the season’s final major as a pro, having made her debut in the paid ranks in last week’s Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.

“It’s great,” said the 22-year-old of being back on this stage, where she is flying the Saltire along with Catriona Matthew, Gemma Dryburgh and Michele Thomson on this occasion. “I have loads of great memories from last year. I’m trying to build on them this week.

Louise Duncan is among four home players flying the Saltire in the first AIG Women's Open to be held at Muirfield. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

“It will be a great experience this week and hopefully I can put those memories to good use. Last year was a wild week. I’ve been going through random thoughts this year thinking ‘how did that even happen?’

“It’s possible again, though. The course set up is nice, it will be windy. I’m from Scotland, I’m used to it. Hopefully it can be a good week.”

Cheered every step of the way by the home crowd, Duncan was sitting joint-fourth heading into the final day at Carnoustie and did extremely well to hold her game together in the toughest test of her career. She would have earned around £80,000 if she’d been a professional but had to settle for the Smyth Salver as leading amateur.

“Ultimately last year, I went out with no expectations and enjoyed it,” said Duncan, smiling. “Dean [Robertson, her caddie that week and back on the bag this week] and me had a good laugh. Dean has some mediocre chat (laughing). He’s great.”

Louise Duncan acknowledges the applause from the fans on the 18th during day the final round of the 2021 AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire.

Referring to missing the cut in the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, she added: “Last week, I didn’t take it in as much as I should have. I’m going to enjoy this week, have a laugh and enjoy it. That’s the key for me. If I enjoy it, I play well.”

Not many players get the chance to set out in the professional game by playing in their national Open then a major. “It was a weird one,” admitted Duncan of starting the new chapter in her career with two massive events and both on Scottish soil. “I thought I’ll never get this opportunity again.

“Not many people get to start their pro careers in the Scottish Open just down the road from my own house, then come to the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. I thought, let’s go for it and see how it goes. It’s all experience. That’s the main thing.”

This week’s event carries a whopping $6.8 million prize fund. “It’s not sunk in, the fact that if I play well, I can earn some decent money,” said the two-time Curtis Cup player. I haven’t had a pay cheque yet. I’m still in the amateur realms of thinking I won’t be making any money. I’ve never thought about money before and I’m going to try to not think about it this week either.”

Duncan will have a familiar face for company when she sets out in Thursday’s opening round, having been paired in the first group out with 2009 winner Catriona Matthew, as well as American Sophie Schubert.

“It will be very special,” she said of that, even though it means an early rise for a 6.30am tee-time. “Might not be many there at half 6 and Catriona hitting the opening shot might take a bit of focus away from me.

“I’ll be nervous. I just have to play my usual game. The greens will be good and there will be no one to hold us up either. I’m expecting a three-hour round (smiling).”

Duncan’s prep started before this week. “A girl from Stirling University is a member and I came here a couple of times in June. I know it well now,” she declared. “It’s one of the truest links in Scotland. You get out of it what you put in. Hit a good one and you’ll get rewarded. If you don’t hit a good shot you get what you deserve, especially in those bunkers.”

What is the aim? “Anything can happen,” she said. Her schedule after this event is up in the air. “I’ve not got anything set in stone. I’ll look to Q-School and see what happens.” Winning this week would mean that wouldn’t be necessary. “Sounds easy, eh?” she said, smiling again.

Duncan’s meteoric rise in the game has been brought to life in a new documentary produced by The R&A. ‘Louise Duncan: Making The Cut’ was aired by Sky Sports Golf earlier this week and can still be viewed on The R&A’s website as well as its YouTube channel.

“I’ve heard good things,” she said of that. “But I probably won’t watch it. I’ll die of cringe!” There’s no denying, though, that she’s one of the new crop of role models in Scottish women’s sport.

“People have got to know who I am a bit more over the last year and it’s been quite inspiring,” she admitted. “If I do well, hopefully some other young girls or boys can go out and have a shot at golf. I enjoy playing in front of crowds. You’re there to entertain and put on a good show. That’s what I want to do.”

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