Scotland's Pam Wright raised memories of yesteryear as she prepared for the final major of the season, the $1M Weetabix British Women's Open that will reach its conclusion at Sunningdale on Sunday.
A European pioneer in the women's game - she was virtually the first to play full-time on the Tour in America - the 37-year-old was classed as one of the very best during a career that started with her winning the LPGA Rookie of the Year award in 1989.
She played in the first three Solheim Cups, memorably playing a leading role in helping Europe win the title for a first time at Dalmahoy in 1992. She also came close to victory on a number of occasions, including a career best second in the 1996 Sara Lee Classic.
But the Scotland and GB amateur internationalist, who started the game at the age of four and had the perfect pedigree as the daughter of a four-time Curtis Cup player, Janette, and the Aboyne professional, Innes, has been forced to curtail her competitive spirit in recent years through a string of injuries.
'Too many years of bashing balls,' said the Scot with a rueful smile.
But it was no laughing matter when the most serious trouble in a left shoulder forced her off the circuit a couple of years ago.
She put the lay-off to good use, completing a sociology degree from Arizona State University in Phoenix, and then honing her teaching skills at golf schools in Florida and Arizona. But the desire to compete remains at the top of her wish list.
'I'm feeling fully fit again for the first time in four years and the hunger is still there,' she said, as she looked forward to another British Open.
'I've been doing a lot of exercises to try and strengthen the shoulder and it's much better. It's wear and tear so there's nothing much that can be really done to help.'
She reckoned that the hard ground at a sun-baked Sunningdale was hardly the best conditions for just her third tournament of the year.
'But, fingers crossed, everything will be OK,' she said. Holder of a conditional card on the US Tour, Wright struggles to gain entry to events. But if she could scoop some of the £1M on offer this week then she might be saved a return trip to the end of season qualifying school.
'But if I have to go back then I will,' she said.
'I still love playing golf. It's a game that you can play for a long time if you are healthy, but I just have to be patient in trying to work my way back.'
For the last couple of months, Wright, who has lived in America since going to Arizona State on a golf scholarship in the mid-1980s, has been back home in Aboyne. Her father has not been too well and she has been helping out in the pro shop and on the teaching range.
'It's been good to spend some time in Scotland with the family again,' she admitted.
While her own form has slipped back in recent seasons, Wright did have a chance to celebrate success as vice-Captain to fellow-Scot Dale Reid in last October's Solheim Cup at Loch Lomond. And she is delighted to have been re-appointed for a similar position at Interlachen in Minnesota next year.
'It's Reid and Wright again and I'm really looking forward to Europe staging a repeat,' she said, brimming with confidence at the prospect of next year's seventh meeting with the USA.
'Winning last year in Scotland was a treasured time and it would be great to be part of a first ever European victory in America, I'm sure we can do it.'
By then, she hopes she will be playing alongside the Solheim stars on a more regular basis.
'I still want to play so much and I'm sure I have a few more years left in me on the Tour,' she concluded.
|| 6 - AUGUST 2001