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Unsung heroes?
Sadly, this is my final column. But perhaps it provides a good opportunity to savour the current healthy state of Scottish women's golf, but also to realise that complacency is a dangerous game.

In professional terms, Scotland has never had it so good with Catriona Matthew, Janice Moodie and Mhairi McKay (pictured) all ranked in the top-25 on the LPGA money list. All three are genuine world-class players, and Kathryn Marshall is not too far behind.

It is just a wee bit unfortunate that they have to play so much of their golf in America to make an impact at the highest level. It often results in their achievements being overlooked. A case of out of sight, out of mind?

It is not so long ago that having one Scot making a name for herself in the States would have been classed as incredible and, sometimes, I feel that our players do not get the credit they deserve. As I often remark, if we had four Scottish men featuring regularly on the US PGA Tour, then they would get far more attention from the media.

On the Evian Tour, the Scottish presence is not quite so healthy. Dale Reid is still plodding along, while Julie Forbes is the only Scot competing regularly on the domestic circuit. And she has never really threatened all season.

At amateur level, Bridge of Allan's Heather Stirling was a revelation - in more ways than one. Having candidly come forth with details of her alcohol problems, she then had the champagne corks popping in her favour with victories in the Scottish Championship, the Helen Holm Scottish Open Strokeplay Championship and the St Rule Trophy.

Despite her past problems she could not be overlooked for Curtis Cup selection, and she ended the season in style by representing Great Britain and Ireland in the three woman team at last week's women world amateur championship in Kuala Lumpur.

Last week, she revealed she is going to turn professional, and her next port of call will be the US Futures Tour qualifying school in Florida next month. Unfortunately, the dates clash with the Evian Tour School, and she has opted for the States. Hopefully, she will soon be joining our Big Four on the LPGA Tour.

Vicki Laing was the other Scot to earn Curtis Cup honours, and she could be another who will soon be heading for the LPGA circuit. In her fourth and final full year at Berkeley College in San Francisco, the Musselburgh lass will turn professional next year.

As yet she hasn't quite decided which Tour to follow. But there is no doubt that her long-term focus lies in the States.

As to the future, luring more girls into the game must remain a top priority for all golf clubs in Scotland. It is not easy. Boys flock to the game, but girls are far too often left isolated. And established members do not always provide the warmest of welcomes.

Everyone who plays the game realises that it is one of the most wonderful of sports. You can compete alongside anyone, you can play throughout your life, and you meet some wonderful people and get to see some amazing places. It really can be a lifelong passion.

Next season, it will be intriguing to see how many Scots make the Solheim Cup side. Can Catriona and Janice bounce back from the disappointment of missing out this year; can Mhairi build on her best season to date. I predict that Mhairi will become a Tour winner in 2003.

She might even do it this season. This week, the LPGA heads to South Korea for the Sports Today CJ Nine Bridges Classic in Jeju Island - I'll be with them - and then there are tournaments in Japan and Florida before the curtain falls on yet another schedule.

Anyway, I hope all Scotland's women club golfers also have a good winter before looking forward to yet another season on the fairways.

And, please, do keep supporting our top players and, perhaps even more vitally, the next generation of youngsters.

©    21 - OCTOBER 2002

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