The Scottish international from West Kilbride reached the semi-finals the last time the championship was played in 2019 and now she has the chance to go even further following an exceptional performance capped by a stunning eagle on her final hole.
Duncan carded a one-under first round of 73 on Gullane’s No 1 course before firing two eagles and four birdies in a bogey-free round on the host club’s No 2 course to set a pace none of the other competitors could match.
“It was good,” she said of her day’s work, which buried the memories of being disqualified at last weekend’s St Rule Trophy after inadvertently signing for a wrong score.
“I played well at the St Rule, it’s just unfortunate that I marked my scorecard wrong. It was just one of those things which, hopefully, I will never do again.
“I was pretty determined today because I just wanted to show folk that I’m playing well at the moment.
Duncan’s nine-under 138 aggregate saw her top the list of 16 qualifiers a single shot ahead of fellow international Shannon McWilliam (Aboyne), Penelope Brown (Auchterarder) and first-round leader Luisa Gibson (Irvine).Rachel Foster (Prestwick St Nicholas) and Tara Mactaggart (Minto), another of the semi-finalists in 2019, also comfortably made it into the draw for the match-play stage on seven- under.
Ellen Caton (St Regulus Ladies) and Lorna McClymont (Milngavie) also made the weekend with a minimum of fuss in a share of seventh place on 141, as did Jennifer Saxton (Dunfermline), who was alone in ninth place on 142.
But it was a different story for Broomieknowe and Gullane member, Hannah Darling, who came into the championship as favourite following her win on Sunday at the St Rule Trophy but needed all her resolve to make it through after carding a morning round of 74 on No. 1.
In the end, the 17-year-old GB&I Curtis Cup squad member showed why she is regarded as one of Scotland’s brightest prospects by carding six birdies in a battling four under par 69 which saw her climb up into a share of tenth place alongside Carmen Griffiths (Aboyne) and Hazel MacGarvie (Royal Troon) on four under par 143.
Chloe Goadby (St Regulus Ladies) reached the final two years ago at Kilmarnock (Barassie) and now has the chance to go one better after posting rounds of 72 and 73 to share 13th place with club-mate Gillian Paton and Katie Wright (Stranraer) on two under par 145.
It is the same for 2015 champion Clara Young (North Berwick), who posted rounds of 75 and 71 but then faced an anxious wait before claiming the sixteenth and last spot following a card countback on 146.
Carinne Taylor (Nairn) and Megan Ashley (Blairgowrie) were the unfortunate players to miss out on countback, but they had the consolation of qualifying for the second flite competition involving those players finishing in 17th to 36th place in the stroke play.
The match play starts today and ends on Sunday afternoon.