It was a day when Louise Duncan, the darling of these galleries, first watched her caddie throw her playing partner’s ball over a wall and deep into a nettle bush and finished with the 22-year-old admitting that depending on the size of her first cheque as a pro here on Sunday, it will either be a ferry to Arran or a flight to Tobago.
The bizarre experience must have told the Scot one thing: it is never boring at the AIG Women’s Open. Not when you are Louise Duncan, anyway.
A year ago, the then student finished in a tie for 10th at Carnoustie, having gone into the final round two off the lead. The only downside of that remarkable showing was that as an amateur she could not collect the £80,000 she would otherwise have picked up.
Now, on only her second start in the paid ranks – having missed the cut at last week’s Women’s Scottish Open – Duncan again finds herself in the mix going into the weekend. She is in the top 20 on two-under, six behind Korean Chun In-gee (66), the three-time major-winner who is one clear of Swede Madelene Sagstrom (65) and South African Ashleigh Buhai (65)
“Two-under for two rounds under Muirfield in testing conditions is quite good and I’m happy,” she said after a 74. “It was a grind, but after last year, I knew what to expect. Although, no, I didn’t expect what happened there on the second hole.”
Dean Robertson is her mentor as well as her bagman. A former winner on the European Tour who played on the same Walker Cup team as Padraig Harrington, Robertson, 52, has seen it all and when Sophia Schubert handed him a ball, he thought the American had just found it and him wanted to get rid . So he threw it over his left shoulder.
In fact, Schubert was requesting it to be cleaned and because of the error was now facing a stroke-and-distance penalty. Robertson duly scaled the wall and, wearing shorts, got down on his hands and knees and fearlessly ventured into the nettles to locate it. Schubert’s relief confirmed to him that the stings were all worth it
“I was like, ‘oh, no, Dean, tell me you haven’t just done that?’,” Duncan said “But it was an honest mistake and quite funny. He is always telling me to stop being an idiot and to calm down, so maybe he deserved that one.”
Robertson, the head coach at the University of Stirling, is crucial in Duncan’s rise. His ability to keep her grounded was seen to best effect on the ninth after she had made three bogeys in a row. It looked set to be unraveling at an alarming pace on the par five when she short-sided herself with her third, but a fantastic up-and-down stopped the rot and on the next hole there was another courageous par save, courtesy of a pitch from 70 yards to six feet. On the 13th, Duncan struck a sumptuous seven iron to two feet and, in truth, she should have been a few better, but that was not about to ruin her optimism.
“I need to play the way I have been playing and hitting more fairways and more greens, because that ultimately means more chances,” she said. “Just stick in there, because another top 10, or better, is of course possible from here.”
Due the hike in prize money, a top 10 this time would be worth at least £130,000, and that would alter the nuptial plans for her and partner Jordan Hughes, an international swimmer she met at university.
“If it’s a big, big cheque we’ll go abroad and get it over with,” Duncan said. “Oh, if that comes across badly, I mean it in the nicest way possible. Sorry, Jordan. Otherwise, yes, it could be a ferry to Arran.”