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Following well-trod footsteps
Scotland has never enjoyed a healthier presence on the LPGA Tour in America, with Catriona Matthew, Janice Moodie, Mhairi McKay and Kathryn Marshall all more than able to hold their own no matter the quality of the company.

Another player already gearing up to continue the trend is Vikki Laing, the record four time former Scottish Girls' Champion who is currently learning her trade at Berkeley University in San Francisco.

And while enjoying a brief festive break before returning to the States for the most hectic period of the college season, the Musselburgh 20-year-old had no hesitation in revealing that everything is geared towards eventually joining the professional trail.

'I'm studying sociology and will complete my degree in two years, but I'm in the US more for my golf than for the academic side,' she admits. 'The college set-up is really good. The golf programme is very intense, and it's really a bridge between amateur and professional.'

With former professional Nancy McDaniel as chief coach, Vikki's routine is certainly tough. Three times a week she's up before the crack of dawn for a physical work-out in the gym, then there's classes all morning followed by afternoon practice on the range, or at one of the many courses available to the scholarship students.

'We certainly don't have much free time, but I love the lifestyle,' continued the youngster. 'During the next few months it will be absolutely crazy with regular tournaments and study commitments. You certainly can't slack.'

But a future - and lucrative - career in golf is the carrot that drives her on. 'I'd love to turn professional: I always have,' she observed. 'The current success of the Scottish players is a huge incentive. They have proved it can be done at the top level.'

But ever-modest Vikki isn't quite bold enough to predict that she will be the next tartan high-flier on the most demanding circuit of all, the LPGA.

'I should graduate in just over two years' time, but I don't really expect to turn pro right away. But I will be checking out the various Tours, and the various options.'

Until then, she will concentrate on adding to her amateur honours, and the pick of the crop would be a place in the Great Britain and Ireland side that will tackle America for the Curtis Cup this summer.

But she does suggest that it is more difficult to attract the selectors' attention from across the Pond. 'You do feel a little out of touch when you are in America. For instance, I can't play in the Scottish Championship so it's more difficult to assess results.'

Another drawback of her travels to and fro across the Atlantic is keeping in touch with her boyfriend of two years, Stuart Horn. Fortunately, the six handicap member of Strathaven is understanding - and the bonus is that he enjoys a holiday in San Francisco in March and November.

'We're both very busy, but I'm home for a round a month at Christmas and then for almost three months in the summer,' said Vikki. 'Sometimes, he caddies for me at tournaments.'

Over Christmas, Stuart hasn't allowed Vikki to slack on her golfing ambitions. She came back armed with a work-out programme and can often be spied running through the streets near her home, or even up Arthur's Seat.

She has also had a few lessons from Musselburgh professional Fraser Mann - she is working on a few swing changes - and mixes regular practice stints both at the King's Acre Club and the National Golf Centre at Drumoig.

All in all, Vikki, who was also a more than competent junior basketball player, oozes enthusiasm for the sport that she hopes will become her profession. 'Occasionally, I do feel I need a break,' she concedes. 'But after just a few days, I'm dying to get back out and playing golf again.'

Regarded as one of our brightest talents from her pre-teens days, Vikki remains on course to sustain the growing Scottish tradition of top-class women performing on the biggest stage. She watches with interest the progress of the Scots in the States. It's not too long before she hopes to join them.

©    10 - JANUARY 2002

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