Like Laura Davies, most Scottish golf fans “wouldn’t know Paige Spiranac from a bar of soap”. She’s no Lydia Ko, that’s for sure. The 23-year-old is an interesting late addition, nonetheless, to the field for the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, which returns to Dundonald Links on Friday for the second year in a row.
There’s no Ko, the women’s world No.1, or Solheim Cup player Suzann Pettersen in the line-up this time around.
They were attracted 12 months ago by the event being perfect preparation for the Ricoh Women’s British Open which was held just down the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry straight afterwards. With Woburn, an inland course, staging that event on this occasion, the links lure has been cancelled out.
It’s to be hoped that will be back in 12 months’ time, when there’s a chance that Dundonald Links, a Kyle Phillips-designed course that is owned by Loch Lomond Golf Club, could stage both the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens in quick succession, with the latter being an opportunity for the likes of Ko to get ready for the first Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns.
The presence of the likes of Spiranac and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece, however, certainly adds some intrigue to this year’s event, which should also be marked, really, as some sort of celebration for home favourite Catriona Matthew, given it will be her first outing since securing a spot in Team GB for the Olympics in Rio next month at the age of 46.
Woods played in last year’s event, won by Australian Rebecca Artis after she closed with a 66 to finish two ahead of Pettersen on six-under.
“I can’t wait to return to Dundonald Links and play in front of the Scottish fans,” said Woods, who won more than 30 amateur titles ahead of turning pro in 2012. “It’s a tournament and a course I’m really fond of, and it will be a great opportunity for me to fine-tune my game ahead of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn.
“I got a really nice reception from the Scottish fans at Dundonald last year, and I feel like I have a special relationship with them, I even celebrated my birthday with them on the Saturday last year. The Scottish fans are very respectful and knowledgeable, so I’m looking forward to a great week in the home of golf.”
For Spiranac, it will be her first visit. As was the case when former world No.1 Davies made that comment in Dubai towards the end of last year, the 23-year-old will need to try and prove that she’s got a golf game and won’t just be remembered for being a social media sensation. “I’m excited to get out there and give it another shot of testing my game,” she said, having recently claimed victory in a Cactus Tour event in the US.
Matthew, who is set to join Charley Hull, Justin Rose and Danny Willett in Team GB as golf returns to the Olympics in Rio after an absence of 112 years, claimed this title twice – in 2011 and 2013 – during the event’s stint at Archerfield Links. “It’s great to be able to come home and to play in Scotland,” said the North Berwick woman. “I really enjoyed the layout of Dundonald last year, but how well you play on any links course really comes down to the weather. If it’s not windy it will be a great course, but if the wind picks up it will be a tough test.”
Falkirk-based American Beth Allen will be aiming to use the event to cement top spot on this season’s Ladies European Tour Order of Merit while Pamela Pretswell and Kelsey Macdonald are both heading into their home Open on the back of career-best efforts on that circuit – second and tenth respectively in the Czech Republic last month.
“I feel so confident with my golf at the moment,” said Macdonald, a former Scottish amateur champion. “I love Dundonald, where I had a pretty decent result last year [tied 27th] and got to play with Catriona Matthew in the final round, which was a pretty good experience.”