RISING star Holly Clyburn is hoping to catch home favourite Catriona Matthew napping in the Ladies Scottish Open at Archerfield Links.
The Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event is Matthew’s first back on this side of the Atlantic since helping Europe retain the Solheim Cup in Denver.
Making her seventh appearance in the biennial bout, the North Berwick woman secured a half point against Gerina Piller in the singles to clinch Europe’s first win on US soil.
An eventual 18-10 victory for Liselotte Neumman’s side was the biggest in the event’s history, adding another exciting chapter to Matthew’s remarkable career.
Two years ago, also over the Fidra Links, the former Women’s British Open champion produced a masterclass to win her first Ladies Scottish Open title by ten shots.
The newly-turned 44-year-old now wants to reclaim the crown from compatriot Carly Booth, who recorded her first Ladies European Tour triumph when the event was held in an earlier slot last year.
But, having stayed on the other side of the Atlantic after the Solheim Cup to play in last week’s Canadian Women’s Open, Matthew’s rivals are hoping her energy levels might be low over the next three days.
“I would say Catriona is the favourite, but she’s going to be tired,” observed Clyburn, pictured. “And, after two weeks off, we are going to be the fresh ones.”
Clyburn, a member of the Great Britain & Ireland side that recovered from a nightmare start to pull off a stunning victory over the Americans in the Curtis Cup at Nairn, is also full of confidence.
In her rookie LET season, the 22-year-old from Cleethorpes won the Deloitte Ladies Open in the Netherlands in May and is sitting ninth on the money-list.
She’s excited to be back in Scotland and will be drawing on the memories from that dramatic Curtis Cup experience when the 54-hole event gets underway on the Fidra Links tomorrow.
“I think about the Curtis Cup just about every time I’m out on the golf course as what we did as a team that week was pretty special,” said Clyburn.
“It was massive for Great Britain & Ireland, especially as we did it in style, but it was also massive for me in terms of self-confidence.”
It has rocketed since she beat compatriot Charley Hull, one of the stars of the subsequent Solheim Cup success, by three shots to make an early breakthrough on the LET.
“I couldn’t have dreamt of making a better start to my professional career and there’s no reason why I can’t go out and win again this week,” insisted Clyburn. “I’m in good shape and it’s a great golf course.”
One player on a mission this week is Trish Johnson, who was a member of the first European team to win the Solheim Cup at Dalmahoy in 1992.
“I’m desperate to win this tournament,” said the experienced English player. “While you can’t say you should have won any event, I’ve had two good chances here in the last three years.
“Three years ago I was leading with three holes to play, then last year I was leading with five holes to play. So I’m a bit gutted I’ve not won here yet.
“Obviously it’s a course that suits my game and, though I’ve not won for a couple of years, I genuinely feel as though I am playing the best golf I have ever.
“Everyone else is getting better so you have to as well. It’s not just one aspect of your game, either. It is everything.”
Matthew, the highest-ranked player in the field, heads a record Scottish contingent that also includes defending champion Booth.
Backing up the two previous champions in the free-to-enter event are Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing, Kylie Walker, Pamela Pretswell, Vikki Laing, Heather Macrae, Katy McNicoll and Kelsey MacDonald.
“My goal this year is to win the title back,” said Matthew. “I’ve had a pretty good year so far, having played well in the majors, so I’m feeling happy and confident.
“I love playing this tournament at Archerfield as I don’t get to play in Scotland very often, so it’s a thrill to be able to do so in my national Open.
“It is a special event for me as I get to play every day and still stay at home with my family, and the home crowd support is fantastic.
“I was very pleased for Carly to win the title last year, as it kick-started what turned out to be a great year for her. I’m hoping that it could be a battle of the Scots again this year!”
In addition to Clyburn and Johnson, South Africa’s Lee-Ann Pace, leading the money-list, will be aiming to prevent that scenario, as will 2008 winner Gwladys Nocera and Melissa Reid.
The unique pro-am format sees 70 amateurs tee it up alongside a limited field of 70 pros tomorrow and Saturday, with the cut being made to 15 amateurs and 50 pros for the final round on Sunday.
Celebrity amateur contenders this year include Gavin Hastings and Alan Hansen.
• The Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open is free to attend and takes place from tomorrow until Sunday at Archerfield Links