What's next for Louise Duncan as Scottish golf's new role model?

It really did make me smile. Two young kids were running around having fun to the right of the 18th fairway at Carnoustie on Sunday when they suddenly became interested in the golf side of their day out at the AIG Women’s Open.

Louise Duncan celebrates a birdie on the 18th during the third round of the AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire.

“The Scottish girl is coming,” shouted the wee lassie to her younger brother as they charged excitedly across to their parents to be lifted up on their shoulders as Louise Duncan received a rousing reception as she crossed the Barry Burn.

That lovely moment made me realise how important role models are in life and those two kids were certainly not alone in having their attention captured by a 21-year-old from West Kilbride as she shone brightly on one of the biggest stages in the game.

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On my way into the Angus venue on Sunday, I bumped into Campbell Elliott, the long-serving Haggs Castle professional and a well-kent face in the Scottish game. He was there with his daughter and her friend, saying of the pair: “They are just starting to get into golf.”

Louise Duncan lines up a putt with her caddie/mentor Dean Robertson during the AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie. Pictrure: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire.

They looked to be having great fun when I saw them again a couple of hours later out following Duncan and you actually had to be there to appreciate the excitement she had generated in producing one of the best-ever performances by a Scottish amateur, male or female.

Make no mistake, it was certainly no fluke that the Ayrshirewoman finished joint-10th in her major debut, having hit brilliant shot after brilliant over four days and not once showing that the occasion and being in the spotlight was too big for her to handle.

As an amateur, she missed out on her week’s work being worth around £83,000 - ouch! - having to settle for the Smyth Salver as leading amateur and also a place in next year’s eagerly-anticipated first staging of the event at Muirfield.

She’d already secured spots in both the US Women’s Open and Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2022 as rewards for winning the R&A Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie) earlier this year.

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As a result of those mouth-watering opportunities having come about, her plan had been to spread a final year at Stirling University over two years and that may still be her course of action but, on the other hand, maybe not.

“Potentially,” she said in reply to being asked if last week’s endeavours, having proved to herself that she has a game good enough to hold her own against the best players in the world, could lead to a change of mind about what lies ahead.

“I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen over the next year, year and a half or whatever. Still got a couple years left at uni and the amount of time I've been at uni - six years or something stupid like that - I think I need a degree out of it. So I'll see. I don't really know what the plan is. Maybe have to sit down and have a wee think about it.”

That will have to wait until after this weekend’s Curtis Cup at Conwy, where Duncan is flying the Saltire along with another exciting young talent in Hannah Darling, but, as was the case on the course at Carnoustie, she will be expertly guided by Dean Robertson.

In a social media post as the dust started to settle on what Duncan had achieved last week, Robertson heaped praise on her “incredibly hard work” and that is apparent for all to see, but let’s not underestimate the role he himself has played and also Duncan’s swing coach, West Kilbride professional Iain Darroch.

I don’t know Darroch, but I first came across Robertson when he was younger than Duncan is now and really enjoyed seeing him carve out a successful amateur career before also tasting victory on the European Tour in the 1999 Italian Open.

What an asset he’s become, though, to Stirling University, where his current title is high performance golf coach, and it tells you everything about the relationship he has with players on the programme there that Duncan will be leaning heavily on him when she eventually gets round to making that big decision about what comes next.

Performances by amateurs in pro events can often be misleading, but there was something special about what Duncan did at Carnoustie and, equally important, the way she did it.

In both her and 18-year-old Darling, Scottish golf has the role models for girls that it really needs at a time when so much great work is being done to boost the women’s game and hats off to the R&A and AIG for doing that with ta big prize hike for the AIG Women’s Open.

The 2021 edition really was a cracker and it would be remiss not to heap praise on Carnoustie for its part in that because one of the best golf courses in the world somehow seems to get better and better with each big tournament and it’s doing some heavy-lifting for the R&A at the moment, with the Boys’ and Girls’ Amateur Championships next up as they are held simultaneously for the first time next August.

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