Three Scots – Vikki Laing, Heather MacRae and Sally Watson – survived a 14-player play-off for 11 spots in a dramatic qualifier at the Castle Course on the outskirts of St Andrews to join Laura Davies and Paula Creamer in securing berths in this week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns.
Another home hope, Laura Murray, was among the unlucky three to miss out after four players were left to battle it out for the final place, but the triple tartan success swelled the home contingent for the season’s fourth women’s major to seven.
Catriona Matthew, the 2009 winner, had already been joined in an event which starts on Thursday by Carly Booth, Kylie Henry and Pamela Pretswell through them being among the top 25 players on this season’s LET money-list not otherwise exempt.
In a battle for 22 spots among 111 players, Laing, MacRae, Murray and Watson all carded two-under-par 70s, as did Davies as the 1986 winner let her clubs do the talking to extend her streak of consecutive appearances in the event to a remarkable 37, including four as an amateur.
The former world No 1 also came through the nerve-wracking play-off at the first extra hole along with fellow pros Nicole Broch Larsen, Stacey Peters and Isi Gabsa, as well as amateur trio Sophie Lamb, Stephanie Wolf and Amelia Lewis.
“I’ve never had to qualify before, so this is a new experience for me and I don’t like it,” said Davies after heaving a sigh of relief that two dropped shots in the final three holes didn’t prove costly after putting in some good work earlier in the round.
“As a past champion I’ve had people saying to me. ‘you should be in’, and I happen to agree with them. I think past champions should get in. I saw Mark O’Meara a couple of weeks ago playing his last one as a 60-year-old.
“But you’ve got to forget about that and go shoot a number. I’ve been moaning about it for quite a while, so I’m quite pleased.”
Creamer, the 2010 US Women’s Open champion, echoed that sentiment as she backed up a strong finish in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, closing with a 69 on Sunday to tie for 13th, to share second with fellow American Tiffany Joh and South African Ashleigh Buhai on 68 after Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom came in late in the day to pip the trio with a 67.
“I haven’t missed a British Open since I turned professional and this week I knew I had to do it the hard way,” said Creamer after an effort that was illuminated by an eagle 3 at the seventh, where she almost holed a 6 iron for an albatross. “But it is what it is and I was prepared to come in and play.
“I played really well last week and could have shot so much better. I feel good, feel great where my game is at.
“I’ve been very close. I know my scores haven’t looked that way, but I know it’s in there and hopefully it’ll be able to show up and give myself an opportunity this week.”
MacRae made her score with three birdies on the trot from the 13th; Watson made crucial gains at the 13th and 16th while Laing, having eagled the seventh in going out in 34, survived a bogey at the last to secure her place in the play-off.
Murray finished her round with a birdie after dropping shots at the 16th and 17th but, after being unable to make a par at the first extra hole, she then lost out to Nicole Garcia as the South African claimed the final spot with a birdie two holes later as the play-off concluded just before 9:30pm.