MacRae tips new circuit to attract continentals

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THE new Scottish Ladies Open Tour, which teed off on the outskirts of Edinburgh yesterday, will become popular with golfers from all over Europe, according to the player handed the honour of hitting the historic opening shot.

Heather MacRae reckons the presence of three continental Europeans – Swiss duo Tatiana Kernen and Fabienne In-Albon as well as Chrisje De Vries from the Netherlands – in the first field at Marriott Dalmahoy is a sign of things to come on the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre-sponsored-circuit.

“I think this new Tour is brilliant and the fact we’ve got nearly 30 players for the first event is good when you consider how many lady professionals there are in Scotland,” said MacRae, a former British Women’s Stroke-Play champion and now a PGA professional attached to Gleneagles Hotel.

“There aren’t many tours for ladies across Europe and I’ve got one of my friends from Holland staying with me so that she can play in these events. There’s also two from Switzerland here and I think that shows women are more willing to travel if the opportunities are there for them.”

Playing closer to home – the circuit moves to Ratho Park today then involves a series of double-headers over the next few months before arriving back at Dalmahoy for a season-ending Tour Championship – is certainly a cheaper option for MacRae than the LET’s Access Series and is also better than competing against men – as she has done on the Tartan Tour.

“For me, it is great as it fits in with the Access Series events and it’s another place for me to get competitive action,” she added. “You’ve also got a better chance thinking you can win than you do when you are playing against the guys. It’s more a case of having a scorecard in your hands in them as your chances of winning are slim. I’m playing in 14 Access Series events this year. It’s a stepping stone on to the main Tour and I’ll secure a card if I can finish in the top five on the money list. The entry fee for these events is n80, but it can cost as much as £1,000 to travel to them as some are in Sweden.”

Nine amateurs teed up in the opening event, including Jessica Meek, last year’s Scottish Girls’ Order of Merit winner. “Playing alongside the pros will be good, not just to test myself but also to see how they go about their business,” said the 18-year-old Carnoustie Ladies player. “I won’t think about turning pro until I believe I’m good enough. First I need to get higher up the rankings but, at the same time, these events will give me the chance to measure myself against the pros.”

Meek gave an excellent account of herself with a 76 in difficult windy conditions but it was upstaged by an incredible round from De Vries, the 25-year-old Dutch player enjoying an instant reward for making the trip by landing the £750 first prize with a two-under-par 72. She won by a shot from Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing, the top two both having lost their full playing privileges on the LET at the end of last year.