The only thing wider than Louise Duncan’s margin of victory in the recent Women’s Amateur Championship was her smile at the end of it.
The West Kilbride youngster’s 9&8 win over Iceland’s Johanna Lea Ludviksdottir at Barassie was the biggest triumph in the event’s 128-year history and one which left the Scot jubilantly beaming like a cat that had commandeered the entire dairy let alone the cream.
There’s plenty to smile about, of course, and the golfing goodies that are set to come her way will keep her grinning for a while yet. Invitations to the forthcoming AIG Women’s Open and the Evian Championship will be eagerly anticipated but the opportunity to play Augusta National next spring has generated the kind of excited surge of energy that could fuse the National Grid.
“I’m going to be buzzing for months and it can’t come quickly enough,” admitted Duncan of her invitation to the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship.
While the first two rounds of that event are held at the nearby Champions Retreat course, the closing round for those who make the cut is staged at Augusta National. Even if Duncan doesn’t qualify for the closing 18 holes, all the competitors are still guaranteed a practice round at the storied Masters course. It will be a practice round like no other.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot and it’s probably a once in a lifetime experience,” said Duncan of this trip to golf’s Garden of Eden for an event that takes place the weekend before The Masters itself. “Before the final at Barassie, I was trying not to think of what was at stake. I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself, lose it and then spend ages dwelling on what might have been. I would’ve been gutted for the rest of my life.”
The only people more excited than Duncan are her mum and two brothers. “She’s already looking at flights and my brothers are desperate to go,” added Duncan. “I’ll try and get Masters tickets and go out for the two weeks and savour it all.”
Duncan is still trying to comprehend the scale of her Women’s Amateur Championship conquest. For a girl who only began to take golf seriously at “15 or 16” she has now thrust herself into new territory.
“My big brothers played so I tagged along with them when I was younger and was always determined to beat them,” she reflected. “But I don’t think there was a moment when I realised I was quite good at golf. It was always just a hobby. I probably didn’t believe I’d go anywhere in the game. You know what golf is like. You can have a great season and then the next year play rubbish. I don’t really set any expectations and that probably helped me at the Women’s Amateur.”
A student at Stirling University, Duncan’s success teed-up a double whammy of wins for that particular institution of education with Laird Shepherd claiming the men’s title the following week at Nairn.
Under the canny guidance of University coach, Dean Robertson, Duncan continues to thrive. “He’s been a big influence,” she said of the former European Tour winner. “He goes above and beyond for everybody.”
Having extended her studies for another two years, Duncan certainly has no immediate plans to turn professional. In fact, she doesn’t have many plans period. “My problem is I’m not sure what I want to do,” she chuckled. “I always said I never wanted to turn pro but then I’d never won anything like this before.”
For the time being, Duncan is determined to enjoy her golf and the wonderful opportunities that it will bring over the next year or so.
“A couple of years ago, I got a bit bogged down and was just bored with golf,” admitted Duncan, who will be aiming for another significant success on Ayrshire soil in next week’s Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open at Troon. “I don’t know what happened. But I went to Stirling and that seemed to perk me up and after getting a pick for the Women’s Home Internationals team in 2019 I got a bit of the fire back again.”
The prospect of Augusta, meanwhile, will keep those fires burning. “I’ll always love the Ailsa at Turnberry but I’m sure Augusta will go straight to the top of my list of favourite courses,” she said.