IT’S a mix of old and new at Longniddry this week.
Inside, the walls of the clubhouse are adorned with old photographs of famous visitors over the years, including one of former Open champions Fred Daly, Kel Nagle, Bobby Locke, Max Faulkner and Roberto De Vicenzo together when they played in a seniors’ event at the East Lothian course in 1975.
Outside, in the Scottish Ladies’ Championship, there’s a new generation of players vying for the title following the recent departure to the professional ranks of players like Pamela Pretswell, Laura Murray and Kelsey MacDonald, the latter two having both won the SLGA’s flagship event in the past three years.
After two rounds of stroke-play qualifying earlier in the week, 32 hopefuls entered the cut and thrust of match-play yesterday and, in a perfect illustration of the vagaries of that particular format, the top three seeds had all fallen by the wayside by sunset.
Second-ranked Rachel Walker (Dumfries & County) went out in the morning and was later joined on the first-day casualty list by Jessica Meek, the leading qualifier from Carnoustie Ladies, as well as No 3 seed Jane Turner from Craigielaw, last year’s beaten finalist.
Playing in the event for the first time at the age of 24, Falkirk’s Louise MacGregor sent Meek tumbling out, recovering from one down with three to play to win at the 19th, where her opponent compounded the pain of missing a three-and-a-half footer for victory at the last by then finding sand at the first extra hole. “I’ve not played in this event before due to a combination of exams, work and not having enough confidence in myself,” said MacGregor, who won the Stirlingshire & Clackmannan title for a fourth time last week.
“But I’ve been seeing Sonia Grant, a lifestyle coach, about being too negative and that’s starting to pay off, along with the work I’ve been doing with my coach, Stewart Craig.”
Due to start a new job with Clackmannan Council on Monday, MacGregor now meets Peterculter 21-year-old Rachel Polson. She wasn’t overly satisfied with her short game but who needs a short game when you are holing 7-irons from around 150 yards for eagle-2s, as Polson did at the first against Broomieknowe’s Hannah Scott.
“That was a great way to start,” admitted Polson, who has just returned from Florida Tech, where she’s halfway through a scholarship, and is signing up to become a caddie this summer at Trump International Golf Links outside Aberdeen.
Turner’s conqueror was Kings- knowe 39-year-old Louise Fraser, who reckons she’s reached the last eight once before “but a long time ago”. Her next opponent is Kilmacolm’s Megan Briggs, the winner four years ago and on course for a title showdown this time around with her younger sister, Eilidh.
Megan, a trainee solicitor who is enjoying her golf more now than she once did, beat home hope Hilary Wardell, the winner in 1995, while Eilidh recovered from two down against Borderer Tara MacTaggart to win on the last. “I’m fine now but wouldn’t have been if you’d asked me an hour ago,” said the relieved Stirling University student, whose last-eight opponent is North Berwick 16-year-old Clara Young.
Admitting it had been “weird” to find herself up against a younger opponent in Fiona Liddell, a German-based 15-year-old, Young holed the putts that mattered, notably a birdie putt at the 11th to edge ahead. “I played Eil-idh in the Scottish Girls at Glenisla, where she came out on top, but it should be a good game,” said Young of her next mission.
She managed to qualify despite juggling golf with Highers earlier in the week and is sitting English on Monday. “I didn’t do too much studying last night as I was knackered and I’m probably going to be cramming over the weekend,” added the East Lothian champion, smiling.
The remaining quarter-final sees Elderslie’s Alyson Mc-Kechin up against Hannah McCook of Grantown-on-Spey.
After a scrappy morning match that went to the 19th, McKechin, joint runner-up in last month’s Helen Holm Trophy at Troon, played “pretty solid” in seeing off Drumpellier’s Susan Wood, while McCook brought Reid back down to earth after her win over Walker.