Local heroine Catriona Matthew was “pretty pleased” with her start in front of daughters Katie and Sophie in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane.
On a day when American Tiffany Joh set the pace with an eight-under-par 63, Matthew opened with a 69 to sit inside the top 20 out after the opening round in the $1.5 million event.
Though this event is being played on a composite course, Matthew knows Gullane better than anyone in the 156-strong field, having been a member she was 12.
In breezy conditions, the 48-year-old from North Berwick dropped a shot at the par-3 third before covering the remaining 15 holes in three-under.
“Yeah, pretty pleased,” said Matthew of her afternoon’s work. “I played really well. It was quite windy for our first nine and dropped and it’s just picked up there a little again.
“With the wind and the bumpiness, it’s tough to get the ball close. I missed the green on the third and didn’t get up-and-down. Apart from that, I was pleased with how I played. You don’t want to shoot yourself out of it, so nice to get off to a decent start.”
As she plotted her way around the fast-running course, Matthew varied what she used off the tee from a 6-iron – at the fifth – to a driver to try and avoid the nasty bunkers.
“I got pretty close to the one on No.6 down the hill. My 2-iron ran a bit further than I thought, but we managed to judge it,” she said of succeeding in staying out of them on this occasion.
“It’s pretty important avoiding a fairway bunker in links golf, and off the tee I thought I drove it well or picked the right clubs.
“I also holed a few pretty long putts out there, including a good one at the tenth. Once they start going, they keep going in.”
Matthew, a two-time winner when the event was held along the road at Archerfield Links, received the warmest reception of the day on the first tee in a group that also included American ace Michelle Wie.
“That was great and actually my two daughters were there,” she said, smiling. “It’s not often they get to see me play. They got to see one shot ... I don’t know how much they walked around.
“I was probably a little bit more nervous than a regular event due to it being at home, but it was nice. It was nice that the girls were watching.”
Kelsey MacDonald came in late in the day with a bogey-free 67 to topple Matthew as top Scot on the leaderboard.
“That’s my first bogey-free round for a long time, so I’m really happy” said the 27-year-old from Nairn. “I had the speed of the greens all day and also got lucky with my tee time as we had perfect weather out there.”
Caddying for her is best friend Katy McNicoll, a PGA pro at the host club. “She keeps me in tact,” admitted MacDonald.
“I’m a quick player and easily get distracted. But Katy speaks to me all the time and gets me sticking to the same process.”
American Tiffany Joh set a red-hot pace with a nine-under-par 62 – an effort that was every bit as impressive as Brandon Stone’s closing 60 as the South African won the men’s version less than a fortnight ago.
“I pretty much kept it in play and putted amazing,” she said after signing for eight birdies, including four in a row from the tenth.
“I didn’t feel like I hit it particularly well but I feel like I just missed it in the right places and just got a hot putter.” It was almost on fire after holing two putts that were close to 100 feet in total on consecutive holes.
“I would say it’s probably my best round, but it’s links,” she added. “You just never know. Things can happen at the tip of a cap. It’s kind of like, it’s nice to have but, at this point, probably doesn’t mean very much.”
Joh, who lives in San Diego, is a surf-lover and is planning a visit to Pease Bay, near Cockburnspath, to give that a go during her visit to Scotland.
“I’ve been doing a little research and I heard that there’s a place called Pease Bay that might be pretty decent,” she said.
“I have a little magic sea wave app and it tells me the nearest surf breaks and if there’s any surf forecasted. It looked like this weekend there might be a little swell in the water.
“Or I might be out there off of 11 tee just trying to shred some gnar.”
Watched by her family and friends, Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing had to settle for a four-over-par 75 and ended the day tied for 118th.