Louise Duncan keen to make professional gains with full focus on Women’s Open

TALK about diving into the depths. With the kind of daring leap of faith old Evel Knievel took when he rushed up a ramp planted in front of the Caesars Palace fountain, Louise Duncan certainly wasn’t shy about a challenge.

Last week the 22-year-old made her professional debut in a stellar field at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open in her native Ayrshire. This week she competes in the very first match of the day with Catriona Mathew in a historic AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. Just a quiet start to life in the paid ranks then?

“I thought, ‘Let’s go,'” Duncan said of an intimidating dive that pretty much requires a mask, a wetsuit and a submersible pressure gauge. “Not many people start their professional career at the Scottish Open just down from home and then come to a Women’s Open at Muirfield. I thought I might never have that opportunity again, so I had to take it.

She may have missed the cut on her professional debut at Dundonald Links, but the memories of her thrilling exploits at the AIG Women’s Open a year ago will hopefully stand her in good stead this week.

As an amateur in the Carnoustie showpiece 12 months ago, the West Kilbride youngster finished in a memorable share of 10th place.

Of course, amateur activists performing spirited feats at professional events have been happening for years, especially on link sites.

Jumping in with modest expectations while seeking to capitalize on the opportunity, however, is a whole different ballgame than playing for your livelihood when pounds, dollars or euros accompany every shot. And there’s a lot of money to think about this week. The R&A and AIG announced yesterday that the prize money for the championship will increase by $1.5 million to $7.3 million.

However, Duncan is not distracted by the bounty offered and she is still getting used to her new status as a professional golfer. “I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet and I still haven’t figured out that I can make decent money if I play well,” Duncan admitted. “I’m still in the amateur way of thinking I won’t make money playing. I had never thought about money before and I’m trying not to think about it this week either.

“Last year I came out with no expectations and I enjoyed it. We had a good laugh. I’m going to try that this week. It’s key for me to play good golf.

Due to her amateur status a year ago, Duncan missed out on a prize worth around £80,000 for her top 10 finish. She wouldn’t mind putting that in her bank account this week and the former Women’s Amateur Champion is quietly confident she can put on another solid showing.

“I’ve been going through random thoughts this season thinking, ‘how did this even happen?'” she explained. “This week at Carnoustie was crazy but it is possible to start again. The layout of the course is nice, it will be windy and I’m used to being Scottish. I have lots of good memories from last year. I hope I can put them to good use.”

Duncan’s amateur dramas in 2021 earned her fame and she reveled in publicity. Television, radio, newspapers? You name it, Duncan was on it or in it.

“People have gotten to know me better over the past year and it’s been very inspiring,” she said of her newfound fame. Fortunes can still come.

As for the fortunes of women’s golf in general? Well, things are definitely going in the right direction. When Muirfield’s initial vote on admitting female members in 2016 failed, the R&A took a tough stance and said the venue would not be considered a Championship host until this thorny situation was resolved. A year later, it was. “I think 2016 was an important time for this sport and for the R&A,” admitted chief executive Martin Slumbers. “We had worked very hard on a strategy for R&A that included a lot of inclusivity. When you think back to that six-year period, women’s golf really exploded. And the road is still long. »

This week is another major moment of this trip.

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