Loved-up Louise Duncan relishing her big engagements in 2022

Talk about a year to remember. After all, 2021 had already provided Louise Duncan with some lifetime memories to cherish before it ended on another happy note.

Louise Duncan reacts after finishes her third round in last year's AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie, where she thrilled the home fans by finishing in a tie for tenth. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Breaking the news on social media, Duncan got engaged to Jordan Hughes, a swimmer and fellow North Ayrshire native, just before Christmas.

“Pretty mental,” said Duncan of that exciting but unexpected development in her life. “A bit like Barassie and Carnoustie, it’s not quite sunk in yet, but I’m delighted. Over the moon, in fact, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with Jordan.”

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The pair met at Stirling University, where Duncan became the new sporting poster girl after producing two outstanding performances on totally different stages last year.

In June, the 21-year-old West Kilbride player won the R&A Women’s Amateur at Kilmarnock (Barassie), becoming the first Scot to land that prize since Alison Rose achieved the feat in 1997.

One of the many perks from that sweet success, Duncan then found herself playing against the world’s leading professionals for the first time in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie in August and what a week that turned into.

Helped by a crowd-thrilling 68 in the third round at the Angus venue, she finished in a tie for tenth, becoming the first Scot since Monifieth’s Kathryn Imrie in 1988 to claim the Smyth Salver as leading amateur and the first to do so since the event became a major.

“It was definitely one of the best years of my life, one that no-one will be able to take away from me and one that could be hard to top, to be honest. It was something special,” admitted Duncan.

Louise Duncan, the leading amateur, and winner Anna Nordqvist show off their trophies from the 2021 AIG Women's Open. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

What had been the highlight? “That’s a tough one,” she added. “To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to do well at all last year and, obviously, Carnoustie with the crowds was something new to me. I’d never played in a pro event before, never mind a major, so that was a special week. But, without my win at Barassie, I wouldn’t have been at Carnoustie, so that was also a week to cherish.”

Her Saturday effort in the R&A women’s major was one of the highlights of the year in Scottish golf. “I actually watched a replay of the third round a couple of weeks ago,” revealed Duncan. “People keep saying do you remember this or do you remember this, but I honestly can’t remember much about it all.

“It was great watching it and I actually didn’t realise how well I played that Saturday. Watching it definitely gave me goosebumps. It seemed as though most of the crowd that day was following my group.”

The affable Scot was speaking before heading out to Dubai with her fellow Stirling golf scholars for a training camp under the watchful eye of Dean Robertson, the head performance coach and Duncan’s trusty caddie at both Barassie and Carnoustie.

“I sat down with Dean to go through the season and this year it’s going to be about not getting too hard on myself,” she said of the pair’s debrief. “I now know what I am capable of, but the chances of having those results again are pretty slim and I have to be realistic about that.

“Yes, it can happen, but I think the important thing is not putting too much pressure on myself. I have done it and I just need to keep believing that I can do it again. That’s what I need to keep telling myself going forward.

“I will be trying to not think too much about the future this year and stay in the present. I think that’s how I have to approach these big events in 2022. I can’t afford to get ahead of myself.”

First up in terms of those dream dates will be the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, when Duncan will make history along with Hannah Darling, the Girls’ Amateur champion from Broomieknowe, as the first Scots to compete in that event.

“It’s massive for both of us and I can’t wait to share that experience with Hannah,” said Duncan. “I’m sure we’ll have a great time and I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be mental.

“Hannah is out in the States now and seems to be loving it there, but we still keep in touch quite a bit. I’m looking forward to getting out there and she can show me the ropes about the American way (laughing).

“I’m also in the US Women’s Open and the AIG Women’s Open again, which is fantastic. To have the latter at Muirfield for the first time is massive and a really exciting prospect.”

Duncan isn’t due to complete her sports studies degree at Stirling until next year. “I’m going to see how this season goes and, if it’s the right time to turn pro, then it will be the right time,” she said. “If not, then I will stick to my original plan. I think I can do a dissertation remotely, but I will just weigh things up at the end of the season.”

Gemma Dryburgh recently regained her full status for the LPGA for the 2022 season while Hazel MacGarvie and Laura Beveridge bolstered the tartan army on the LET at its Q-School.

“Scottish golf is definitely on an upward trajectory and I am determined to be part of it,” declared Duncan. “I think the thing that pleased me most last year was how I handled the pressure.

“To be honest, I never thought I was capable of that as I had been known to crumble on occasions prior to last season. To be able to play well under pressure was huge and showed where my game is at.

“I just need to keep reminding myself about how well I handled things at Carnoustie, in particular, and I am sure that people like Dean will not let me forget that.”

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