Louise Duncan reached new heights in the AIG Women’s Open last week, but her wild new world doesn’t stop for even a second after Carnoustie.
The 21-year-old from West Kilbride won the hearts of the home crowd with her brilliant performance at the highest level of women’s golf, finishing tenth. She was just two shots off the lead with nine holes to play.
But she barely has time to take stock before heading to Conwy in Wales to play for Great Britain and Ireland against the USA in the Curtis Cup this weekend.
The vast majority of the restricted 8,000 crowd on Sunday at Carnoustie – the R&A could have sold twice as many tickets but for remaining Covid restrictions – followed Louise and playing partner Madelene Sagstrom.
‘I really need to get a degree’
— The R&A (@RandA) August 22, 2021
Having tasted the big-time, her head has maybe been turned, but she still wants to finish her studies at the University of Stirling.
“I’m glad it’s wasn’t a fluke,” she said. “I played well all four days. I made some mistakes out there probably but everyone does, and I think I’ll come back better again.
“Potentially it has changed my mind. I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen over the next year, year and a half or whatever.
“I’ve still got a couple years left at Stirling. The amount of time I’ve been at uni now, I think I really need to get a degree out of it! I’ll be six years or something stupid like that.
“So I mean, I’ll see. I don’t really know what the plan is. Maybe I need to sit down and have a wee think about it.”
The Curtis Cup hardly lessens the excitement for her, though.
“There will be fans down there and hopefully they are all rooting for us,” she said. “I think the team environment will be something different from this week, but something good.
“Laura Walshe and Annabel Fuller made the cut this week and played outstandingly, as well. To have three people make The Open cut, one of the biggest events of the years in the professional ranks, serves us well going into the Cup.”
The hiatus in the amateur golf circuit during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown had some fearing players would fall through the cracks. In the case of Louise, it seems to have done the opposite.
Prior to this season she was known as a decent player, international standard certainly, but not exceptional. There was some talk that she was disillusioned with the grind of golf at the elite level.
Win at Barassie changed everything
Her win in the Amateur quickly changed all that. But even then, the top amateur championships, men’s and women’s, have not yet recovered their absolutely best fields after Covid. The top players from Sweden, France and Italy, the powerhouses of European women’s golf, were absent from Barassie.
You can only beat who is there, mind you, and it was a record win. But Louise herself wasn’t sure how her game would match up to pro level.
The Women’s Amateur Champion is in contention at @AIGWomensOpen 👏
— The R&A (@RandA) August 22, 2021
Then she played with Solheim Cup player Emily Kristine Pedersen in the pro-am at the Scottish Women’s Open. Suddenly she realised, yes, I might be okay here.
She was a good deal better than okay – second only to Lexi Thompson in driving distance for the week at Carnoustie.
That slight frame is far stronger than it appears. Louise generates a clubhead speed close to that of the men on the Stirling golf team. Tee to green she was outstanding, and while her putting is inconsistent, that’s an area that can easily be worked on.
Dean Robertson, the former Italian Open champion now head of performance at the University of Stirling, was a comforting presence on Louise’s bag at Barassie and all last week.
He caddies for many of his students at top amateur events, and is always there as a precious source of advice and guidance.
Deano was more than a fair player himself in his day, obviously. But he seems to have found his true calling at Stirling where the golf programme continues to be a major success. Both the Amateur champions of 2021, Louise and men’s champion Laird Shepherd, were under Robertson’s charge.