Dame Laura Davies is relishing the opportunity to strike the opening tee shot at Royal Troon and mark her historic 40th appearance at the AIG Women’s Open.
Ahead of starting proceedings at 6.30am on Thursday, Davies was presented with an official painting of the famous ‘Postage Stamp’ 8th hole by The R&A’s Chief Executive Martin Slumbers to celebrate the occasion and her longevity.
Davies began her run in the event as a 16-year-old amateur in 1980 at Wentworth, quickly going on to win the Women’s Open in 1986 at Royal Birkdale in only her second year on tour.
Now the Englishwoman will follow Colin Montgomerie, who struck the first ball at Royal Troon’s staging of The Open in 2016.
The 56-year-old, who tees off on Thursday in the company of Northern Ireland amateur Olivia Mehaffey and Canada’s Alena Sharp, said, “It’s a great honour. Martin mentioned that Monty had done it at The Open and I didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes’. I’m just delighted to have enjoyed longevity in my career.
“I’ll be nervous on the tee, not just in the circumstances but also with the predicted strong wind, so it’s going to be tough. I’m looking forward to it and I hope I hit a good one.
“It’s an early start, but I’m hoping we can get out there and maybe have a decent start. The condition of the course is about as good as I reckon you could have a links golf course.”
Martin Slumbers added, “I think it’s a great honour for Laura, she is the finest female golfer of her generation. Forty times playing in this event is a tremendous achievement and I wouldn’t put it past her to be hanging around there on Sunday.
“We’ve done this at The Open for the last few years, started it here with Colin. I think the first tee shot of the championship is something to really celebrate and I couldn’t think of a better person to hit that tee shot tomorrow morning.”
For Stacy Lewis, it is also a special week. Having won last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at The Renaissance, she is now feeding off her memories of 2013 Women’s Open success at St Andrews in 2013.
The American said, “It’s just a championship I love. I love the history of the game, all the history of all these golf courses. You think about how long they have all been here and how long the game of golf has been played here; it’s just really cool.
“Links golf is a different type of golf, and you really have to learn it. It does take a couple times of coming over here and playing to really understand.”
Commenting on how significant it is to be playing this week, the 35-year-old added, “It’s important for women’s golf that we are playing, and just so thankful that the Scottish government allowed us to come over and The R&A for hosting our championship. I think it shows their commitment that they are making to women’s golf for the future.”
Inbee Park, Korea, 2015 Women’s Open winner at Turnberry
“This is the type of golf course I really love to play, so I’m really happy to be here finally seeing some people and playing some golf. It’s really exciting. I really have good memories, of Scotland and of England, because I just love playing on these golf courses; the weather is really part of it. I really enjoying playing in the wind and the rainy conditions, because it’s kind of a once-a-year thing, so I’m excited to see that, as well.”
Lizette Salas, USA, two top-10s in the Women’s Open
“There’s something about links golf that I absolutely love. I think the tougher the golf course is, I tend to focus a little more. I tend to rely on my consistency in fairways hit. I’ve never been to Royal Troon and heard such great things. I played 18 holes on Tuesday and fell in love with the venue. So, I’m feeling really positive vibes and really excited to get the week started. We still feel the atmosphere of a major championship. Obviously with the boards and just knowing that it is the AIG Women’s Open. I think with the name itself and Royal Troon, it brings that major aspect to it.”
Nasa Hataoka, Japan, world number five
“My goal has always been to win the majors, so first of all, obviously I have to make the cut, but yeah, I wish that I can play well and maybe win the tournament. It was a very good experience for me to play in Scotland (tied 12th last week at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open) and experience the firm surface, and kind of get to grips with the difficulty of the course. I was able to play patiently last week, and I wish that I can continue my form this week.”
For further information on the AIG Women’s Open, please visit www.AIGwomensopen.com