Nick Rodger: New opportunities point to a bright future for women’s golf

Regular readers will not be interested in the slightest to know that I’m needing a new car. Driving back from the Women’s Open at Carnoustie on Sunday night, yet another little light popped up on the dashboard to join the other little lights that had already popped up on previous journeys. 

Give it another week, and the Four Minute Warning will probably get blasted out of the ventilation system as I try to demist the windscreen.

It’s actually got to the point where I don’t put the auld jalopy in to the garage for a service anymore. I just wheel it to Lourdes once a year and hope for another miracle and an MOT certificate.

All of this, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the Women’s Open. Well, apart from that mention of a miracle. On Saturday night, as the golf writers nonchalantly gulped down our usual couple of bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Reserve with our egg and chips, the giddy prospect of Louise Duncan winning the final major of the year was a very real one.

The West Kilbride amateur was two off the lead, playing superbly and showing no signs of being overwhelmed by the occasion. The miracle didn’t happen – well, apart from this correspondent’s car actually starting in the media parking lot on Sunday night – but Duncan took us all on a wonderful journey which enriched a memorable championship over one of golf’s greatest links courses. Her eventual share of 10th, which ensured she’ll be back at the most lucrative event in the women’s game next year, was a mighty achievement.


For any budding young golfer watching on, it must have been inspiring stuff too. And inspiring more girls, and indeed women in general, to take up the game has to remain at the forefront of golf’s push for growth in a market place that still has vast, untapped potential.

Let’s face it, golf’s treatment of women as second-class citizens has been a plook on the game’s complexion and a withering shackle on its development for years but the concerted drive to right those wrongs and foster a more welcoming, family-orientated approach continues to give cause for optimism.

Showpiece occasions like the Women’s Open, with its greatly increased prize fund, gives women’s golf exposure and stature but strong participation at the bottom of the pyramid, and a flourishing recreational scene, remains vital to the female game’s health, sustainability and success in the future.

Duncan’s future, meanwhile, looks extremely bright. Amateur players performing thrilling feats in professional events has been happening for years, particularly on links courses. In many instances, it doesn’t translate into success when said players make the plunge into the professional game. Teeing-up without any grand expectations, while looking to enjoy the experience and learn from it with a relatively carefree approach, is a whole different ball game to playing for your livelihood when thoughts of pounds, dollars or euros are suddenly accompanying every shot.

But let’s not get bogged down in the what-ifs and what-might-bes. Duncan is certainly in no rush to turn professional in an age when the amateur-to-pro turnover clanks along like an industrial conveyor belt. “I’ve still got a couple of years left at University and given the amount of time I’ve been there, I think I need a degree out if it,” said the Stirling University student with a dry chuckle. “It’s coming on six years or something stupid like that.”


Duncan’s efforts and her self-deprecating yet quietly determined style was lapped up by a global media. At the end of each round last week, she was birled about the houses with various TV and radio interviews as they squeezed every cough, wheeze and snort out of her uplifting daily endeavours.

By the time she got plonked in front of the golf scribblers – the old quill and parchment lads and lassies in newspapers are always last in the interview queue – she just about needing a soothing throat lozenge.

Things are moving in women’s golf. The Women’s Open was the richest in the female game after the R&A and the headline sponsor, AIG, unveiled a significant financial war chest that was an increase of £950,000 on the previous year. Next season, a further £730,000 will be flung into the pot.

The Ladies European Tour (LET), meanwhile, is in reasonable shape with an alliance with the LPGA Tour. There is plenty of work to do on that front, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the grim scene that the embattled tour campaigners faced a couple of years ago.

With sponsors departing and tournaments cancelled, the increasingly dire situation was as downbeat as reading a row of sombre tombstones. Tales of players having to take other employment to supplement their income because there was simply nothing to play in became a dire reality.

For a new generation thinking of a professional career, there was hardly any incentive to pursue such ambitions. Thankfully, the green shoots have emerged. This year’s LET schedule, for instance, boasts record prize money and a fairly meaty schedule.

Should Duncan, and others, decide to give professional golf a crack in the future, then hopefully those playing opportunities, and the financial incentives and rewards, continue to improve.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992