Golfer who merits attention

KYLIE WALKER rubber-stamped her membership of an impressive class of talented young female golfers by topping the Scottish Ladies' Golfing Association Order of Merit last year. This season, she intends to prove she is one of the best amateurs in Europe.

In a bright start to the new campaign, the Buchanan Castle golfer last week retained her Dunbartonshire and Argyll County Championship, but the first big test comes on Friday at the Helen Holm Scottish Open Strokeplay Championship at Troon. "I can't wait," said the 22-year-old. "It's the first major tournament of the season and it's a high-class field. There are lots of Swedes and French players and it's a title I would love to win."

A full-time golfer, Walker had hoped to be treading the professional boards this season. She entered the Ladies' European Tour Qualifying School at La Manga in Spain at the very start of the year, but just failed to make the final-day cut that would have earned entry to the paid ranks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Looking back, she knows where she went wrong. "It was January and I hadn't been playing any golf, just practising. Usually, I am such a steady player, but at La Manga I was so inconsistent that it was embarrassing. I was really disappointed with my performance because I knew I was good enough to make it and, although Tour School is notoriously full of pressure, I wasn't even nervous."

The statistics over the 126 holes back up her yo-yo claims. She shot a superb 67 in the final round of the pre-qualifying – but then shot 80 in the first round of the final school and was shoved firmly onto the back foot.

But an important lesson has been learned. "I'll be back at Tour School next year and I'll certainly do things very differently," she confirmed. "I'll go away in the winter to somewhere hot and really make sure that I prepare properly."

So while she is disappointed not to turn a quartet of Scottish rookies – Krystle Caithness, Vikki Laing, Pamela Feggans and Michele Thomson – into a five-woman band on the 2009 LET, Walker intends to put this season to the best of use and improve her pedigree.

"My main goal is to retain the SLGA's Order of Merit, and that means showing great consistency over the whole season," she said. "The Helen Holm is the first test, and I would love to win the Scottish Championship (at Southerness next month). I also want to improve my European ranking. I was 17th last year, but I want to get into the top five or, at the very least, the top 10."

Scottish women's golf is booming at present, as evidenced by the presence of Caithness, Thomson and teenagers Sally Watson and Carly Booth in last year's eight-strong Great Britain and Ireland team at the Curtis Cup. And Walker is quick to praise the combined efforts of the SLGA and the Scottish Institute of Sport. "I got into the Institute through the SLGA when I was just 17 and, over the past five years, I have had some really great help. For instance, I get to use the Institute gym at the Palace of Arts in Glasgow, and go there three times a week."

There are also a number of important individuals in her support network. Bob Collinson, based at Bearsden Driving Range, has been her coach for three years, while her brother, Chris, is her regular caddie. Mum and dad are also invaluable in too many ways to mention.

Someone else who has helped foster Walker's enthusiasm, and pointed her in the right directions, is the legendary Belle Robertson, a member of the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame. Undoubtedly Scotland's best ever woman amateur – she won seven Scottish Amateur titles, a British Amateur and played in nine Curtis Cups – the fellow county member has been a massive influence.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Belle is an honorary member of Buchanan Castle and she's helped me since I was 15," said Walker. "Now she is a great friend and we play together about once a fortnight."

Belle will no doubt be popping into Troon next weekend to cast an eye over Walker's progress at the 54-hole Helen Holm. "Last year, I shot 69 in the final round over Royal Troon and finished fourth. This year, I want to do even better," said Walker.

With a handicap of plus three, Walker is one of the back markers, but the field is of exceptional quality with players from Sweden, France, Germany, Finland and Norway in addition to the very best on offer from the four home countries.