Rising star Karis Davidson has left legacy in Borders

Karis Davidson, the Melrose-born player who has made a stunning start to her professional career on the other side of the world, is helping shape the swings of the next generation of young golfers in her native Borders.
Karis Davidson had good reason to be smiling after finishing second in the Oates Vic Open on Sunday. Picture: Tristan JonesKaris Davidson had good reason to be smiling after finishing second in the Oates Vic Open on Sunday. Picture: Tristan Jones
Karis Davidson had good reason to be smiling after finishing second in the Oates Vic Open on Sunday. Picture: Tristan Jones

“Karis used to come to see me for lessons when she lived in Innerleithen before the family moved to Australia,” Frank Scott, who is based at Synton Mains Driving Range at Ashkirk, which sits between Selkirk and Hawick, told The Scotsman.

“Even back then – it was in either 2008 or 2009 – I could see she was talented. In fact, I still have her swing on video and use that to show juniors who come in for lessons now. That tells you something when she was probably just eight or nine at the time.”

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A decade on, Davidson has just become a huge inspiration for girl golfers in particular in the Borders, even though it is in Australia, her adopted home after emigrating there with her parents, Graeme and Faye, and younger brother Zak, where she has emerged as an exciting young talent in the Royal & Ancient game.

On the back of a promising amateur career, the 19-year-old turned professional in December after winning her card for the Japan LPGA Tour before backing that notable feat up by finishing second in the Oates Vic Open – her first 72-hole event in the paid ranks – last weekend.

She is now preparing for next week’s ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open at Kooyonga, near Adelaide, before heading to Japan, having fulfilled the promise that earned her a Karrie Webb Scholarship last year, when she got to be around the seven-time major winner as she prepared for the US Women’s Open at Trump National at Bedminster in New Jersey.

“It is fantastic to see Karis doing so well and I’m delighted for her,” added Scott, who has been one of the leading coaches in the Borders for nearly 20 years. “I think her dad knew that she was a very talented young golfer and I think he saw more scope for Karis in Australia. I think they did the right thing by moving out there.

“It’s a struggle in the Borders to get young golfers to that top level. Rugby is still the main thing down here, so it’s great to see the likes of Karis and also the Howie brothers – Craig and Darren – from Peebles doing well. They used to come here, too, when they were starting out in golf.”

Davidson was just four when her dad got her into golf, but it wasn’t until after the family moved to Queensland that she started her competitive career. “I played in tournaments as soon as I arrived in Australia and that’s where I met Chris Lee from the AnKGolf Academy,” she said. “It’s a Korean golf school based on the Gold Coast and Chris saw me at a tournament when I was 12 and asked if I wanted to train with them.

“Chris was my main influence at that time and, though I am now coached by Ian Triggs, whom I met at the academy a few years ago, I still train with the AnKGolf Academy at Sanctuary Cove Country Club, where they are based.”

That’s also her home golf course while Davidson, whose amateur successes included a nine-shot victory in the New South Wales Girls Championship in 2015 and claiming the prestigious Riversdale Cup last year, does her gym work at the Queensland Academy of Sport in Brisbane, where she spends three days per week.

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“It is hard to say, but I am sure different opportunities would have arose,” she replied to being asked if she believed if things would have worked out so well for her if she’d stayed in Scotland. “Australian players are well supported, but I would not know how to compare it as I have been in Australia too long now!”

Davidson earned around £32,000 for finishing as world No 20 Minjee Lee’s closest challenger in the Oates Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Links near Melbourne. “Yes, it has sunk in,” she said of that brilliant effort. “But now I’m looking forward to the Australian Open. I got an invite for that from Golf Australia and my expectations have not changed as I don’t want to add extra pressure on myself.

“I would obviously also love to play in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane later this year, but I need to make sure I keep my card in Japan by playing as many tournaments as I can. I am very excited about going to Japan. I wanted to go there because I wanted to do something different and I love the country. The fact that it is closer and only one-hour time difference makes it easier.”

Scotland’s loss is definitely Australia’s gain but at least Davidson has left her legacy at Synton Mains Driving Range.