Confirming Scotland's growing presence at the top of the women's game, three players, Catriona Matthew, Janice Moodie and Mhairi McKay, have qualified for one of the most prestigious tournaments on the US circuit, the Tour Players' Championship in West Palm Beach in Florida in November.
For McKay, it will be her debut in the championship that is limited to the top-30 on the money list, and it will be the prefect curtain call to a season when the 26-year-old really has come of age.
She has twice finished second, and is lying 25th on the money list with $380,599. In her previous four years on the Tour, her highest was 80th in her rookie 1998 season.
'I'm certainly very happy with the way things have gone this year,' said the Turnberry player who, this weekend, joins Matthew and Moodie in the 32-strong line-up for the Cisco World Matchplay Championship in Japan.
'I've worked hard on my swing over the past couple of years, and it is really just this season that everything has come together and I've begun to feel comfortable.'
McKay is coached by fellow-Scot Gregor Jamieson, who was originally at Turnberry but has been based in Florida for many years. She visits him as often as possible, and always tunes up for the season in the Sunshine
For Matthew, it has also been a wonderful year, and easily her best in six years on the circuit. The highlight, of course, was her debut LPGA victory in the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies' Open back in February, and she has had
a string of top tens.
The majors also proved lucrative for the 32-year-old from North Berwick. She was fourth in the US Open and followed up with a tie for third in the
Weetabix British Open at Sunningdale.
With $704,123, Matthew has already set a Scottish record for a season's haul, and she is the leading British player on the money list at number 10.
'The win at the start of the year gave me a lot of confidence, and it's been a great year,' said Matthew. 'It's also been a busy year so I'm
looking forward to the winter break.'
Moodie, at number 17 with $380,599, hasn't quite managed to continue her rapid progress since turning pro in 1998. She was also 17th in 1999, and climbed to number 14 last year when she claimed her first win, in the ShopRite LPGA
She has had some great moments, notably her tie for second in the Nabisco Championship and a share of third alongside Matthew in the British Open. But another win is definitely a priority.
Of course, the fact that three Scots are so high on the rankings - and Kathryn Marshall isn't too far behind at just outside the top-50 - is
another great motivating factor.
They are all desperate to be the leading tartan bearer on the women's greatest world circuit. In fact, McKay and Marshall have an agreement that they pay each other $100 for a top -10 finish. 'So I know to my cost that Mhairi's having a great season,' Marshall notes with a rueful smile.
Next week, Marshall will be joining her three compatriots for her final event of her year - the Mizuno Classic in Japan - and then there will only be the Tour Players' Championship to decide the final end of season rankings.
But whatever happens over the next few weeks, our four Scots on the LPGA Tour can certainly look forward to a happy few weeks break over Christmas and the New Year. They will all have good reason to celebrate.
|| 24 - OCTOBER 2001