Having tried without success for six years to make the breakthrough on the Ladies European Tour, Vikki Laing is not in a position where she can choose an event she’d like to win above any other.
But North Berwick’s Catriona Matthew, the defending champion and winner twice in the past three years, isn’t the only East Lothian woman chasing glory close to home in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open starting tomorrow at Archerfield Links.
A Musselburgh lass to the core, Laing would be over the moon if her maiden LET victory came on her own doorstep and, perhaps more than ever as the Dirleton venue prepares to stage the 54-hole event for the fifth year running, it’s a distinct possibility.
Laing, a four-times Scottish Girls’ champion who also played in the Curtis Cup as an amateur, heads into her home tournament sitting 22nd on the money-list, having chalked up three top-ten finishes this season.
The 33-year-old was fourth in the Turkish Airlines Open and sixth in the ISPS Handa European Masters and, refreshed from a three-week break in the schedule, Laing is ready to resume her bid to land that elusive first victory on the European circuit.
“I’ve been playing quite well this year and it’s always nice to go into your home event when that’s the case,” she told the Edinburgh Evening News.
“There’s been a bit of a break since our last event, but I was needing that after a six-week run and hopefully my good form can continue this week.
“My whole game has been reasonably strong this year and I’ve given myself some chances to win, which is great. I’ve been there or thereabouts coming down the stretch on a Sunday a few times and that’s always a nice feeling.
“Of course, it would be great to win so close to home and playing front of friends and family – but I’ll take a win anywhere, to be honest. If I could choose one, it would be this event as it’s a nice club with a lot of nice people at it, too.”
For the time being at least, this week’s event will be the last at Archerfield Links as it has just been announced that exciting changes are in store for it next year. As well as moving to a new slot the week before the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry, the prize-money is also being doubled from £200,000 to £400,000 when it takes place at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire. “It is superb that the event is moving into a new slot next year and will have such a big increase in prize-money,” said Laing. “It’s great to know that the support is there from Aberdeen Asset Management and Dundonald is a nice course, too.
“I was really excited reading about that and I’m sure it will be a great event, as has been the case at Archerfield.”
Matthew, of course, has been the Scottish No 1 for some time and is still by far the country’s highest-ranked player at No.20 in the world. Carly Booth’s win in this event two years ago failed to ignite her professional career in the way many expected, though time is still very much on her side to get to the top of the ladder. But, perhaps more than ever over the past decade, there have been signs that a new generation of female golfers are ready to take over Matthew’s mantle on the world stage. Kylie Walker, for instance, has won twice on the LET this season, both times in play-offs and one against the highly- rated Charley Hull, while Sally Watson is challenging to be Rookie of the Year.
After the East Lothian event, there are nine more left on this year’s schedule, leaving Laing with plenty of opportunities to considerably improve on her 59th-place finish on last season’s money-list.
“Ideally, top five would be great but I’d like to get in the top ten,” she admitted. “I’d also like to get a win, especially having been in contention a few times. It would nice to get over that particular hump.”
In total, there are nine Scots in the event, entry for which is free of charge, with the format once again being a pro-am.
Celebrities taking part this year include actor Dougray Scott, BBC newsreader Naga Munchetty and curler Eve Muirhead.
They’ll join regulars such as Alan Hansen along with Trish Johnson, and Gavin Hastings, who is being joined on this occasion by a fellow former Scottish rugby star in Rory Lawson.