Scotland's Kathryn Marshall has made a New Year resolution that she is determined to keep. She's going to improve her putting and - almost literally! - is willing to go to any lengths to do it.
Shunning blushes of embarrassment, Kathryn has been trying one of the broom handle implements in a bid to change her fortunes on the greens.
'I'm still just at the experimental stage, but it feels great,' she said with more than a hint of amazement.
It was watching Nicky Moult wield the long putter with aplomb when the pair met in the WPGA International Matchplay Championship at Gleneagles in September that gave Kathryn food for thought.
Putting has never been her strong point - she has tried the Bernhard Langer 'clamping' method and various forms of left hand below right in the past - and she had always presumed that long putters were better suited for tall people. The lanky pair of Beth Daniel and Jean Bartholomew are the only operators on the US LPGA Tour.
'But Nicky is just about the same size as me,' explained Kathryn, who measures around 5'3". 'And she looked so comfortable and had such a smooth stroke that I thought I should give it a try. Forget the embarrassment. If it works, it would be perfect.
'Over the years I've tried just about everything, and I'm not saying I'm definitely going to switch. But I'll keep working with it for the next few weeks.'
In fact, Kathryn, who lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, has been hard at work in more departments than putting during the past few weeks. She has been travelling regularly to the National Golf Centre at Drumoig where she has been working for the first time with Scottish national coach Ian Rae
And she is delighted with both Rae's advice and the excellent facilities on offer. 'But I just can't believe how quiet it is,' she said. 'Apart from high-level Scottish players, no-one is making use of the great practice arrangements. There is all the latest video equipment, I couldn't wish for better.
'Ian has also been very good. It's the first time I have worked with him - my usual coach is based in Florida - and I would highly recommend him.'
As for the start of the season, that will be at a tournament near Sydney in Australia in the middle of February. It will mark the start of a hectic six week run that will conclude with the first major of the women's season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, at Palm Springs in California at the end of March.
Kathryn missed the event for the first time in years last season, but her 60th place in this year's LPGA rankings helped her sneak the last automatic qualifying place.
'I was so pleased,' she reflected. 'I love the Mission Hills course where they play the tournament and it is one of my favourites of the whole season.'
Before then, she will be continuing to pound out the hours at Drumoig and trying to fit in the odd round (weather permitting) over her beloved Monifieth and Carnoustie courses.
At the end of January, she hopes to head down under to Perth in Australia for some warm weather practice in preparation for a season that she hopes will bring even greater success. And if she could really have a Christmas wish, it would be for a return to Solheim Cup action for Europe's defence of the title at Interlachen in Minnesota in September.
Last winter, Kathryn was plagued with a back injury and struggled to practise. But she's hoping that her endeavours will pay dividends in the season to come. Last year, she showed signs of the form that earned an LPGA victory and Solheim Cup selection in the mid-1990s. But now she's hoping for even better in 2002.
|| 3 - JANUARY 2002