Louise Duncan might not make a better investment in her golf career than the entry fee she paid to play in last year’s R&A Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie).
The latest windfall is debut appearance in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA) championship.
It cost The R&A Scholar and University of Stirling student £100 for her place in last year’s Women’s Amateur, not far from home club of West Kilbride. Duncan turned that into a 9&8 victory over Iceland’s Jóhanna Lea Lúđvíksdóttir to book her place in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, where she won the Smyth Salver as low amateur with a tied tenth finish among the game’s elite.
Following her ANWA debut, she will test her game against the women’s best again this year in two further majors – the US Women’s Open and Amundi Evian Championship, as well as a return trip to Muirfield for the AIG Women’s Open in August.
“I think the money I spent to enter the Women’s Amateur has been pretty good value,” admitted Duncan. “If you think about it in terms of what it’s got me into, then it was extremely good value for money. It’s probably the best golf investment I’ve ever made.”
Unlike fellow Scot and 2021 Curtis Cup teammate Hannah Darling, who has half a season of her first year of college golf at the University of South Carolina to draw on at Augusta National, Duncan’s experience of playing in America is limited to one outing. She represented Stirling in the 2019 Yale Women’s Fall Intercollegiate. The 22-year old, currently 49th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, acquitted herself well, earning a joint seventh-place finish.
“I’ve not exactly been exposed to playing on courses where you have to use a lot more loft around the greens than I’m used to in Scotland, so I’ll try to gear my game in that direction,” said Duncan, who was recently named to the Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup squad for this year’s match at Merion Golf Club.
That’s why the sports studies student has built a week’s practice at Sage Valley Golf Club in South Carolina into her ANWA preparation. “The main thing I will be working on is my short game and putting,” she said. “If you miss a green at Augusta it’s not going to be easy to make a par.”
Unlike many golf mad youngsters, Duncan’s recollection of the Masters Tournament isn’t extensive.
“I didn’t really watch a lot of the Masters when I was growing up, just wee snippets,” she said. “It wasn’t until Tiger won in 2019 that I actually watched the full final round. That was inspiring.”
The plus five handicapper wasn’t initially aware of the rewards that came with becoming the first Scottish winner of the Women’s Amateur since Alison Rose in 1997.
“I didn’t know winning would get me into the ANWA, the AIG or the other women’s majors,” said Duncan. “It still doesn’t seem real. I’ve sort of got a weird thing about that where I don’t think something is real until it happens. It still feels unreal that I’ll be playing Augusta National. I think once I get to Augusta then it will sink in. I can’t wait.”
As for expectations over the course that Bobby Jones and Dr Alister Mackenzie built, Duncan says: “It’s hard to know what to expect. I’ve been told it’s very hilly, and to take a local caddie because they obviously know the course well, the places to miss, the areas of the green you want to hit to, that sort of stuff, which will be invaluable to me.
“The main thing I took from winning at Barassie and playing in the AIG Women’s Open is the belief that I can perform well when it matters. I did for those two weeks and there’s no reason why it can’t happen again.”