Is it nice to come back to Wales?
Coming back to Wales is so special, especially being close to home. The event this year feels really exciting. I’m quite nervous about it as well. It’s a fantastic feeling.
You grew up only 15 minutes’ from here. Does it bring back good memories?
Growing up around here brings back all the memories from amateur golf, really. Playing at Conwy, I’ve on a couple of tournaments here, just being around the area takes me back to when I was younger before I was anywhere near being a professional, so it is quite strange in that way; being somewhere that you know so well, rather than travelling all over Europe, going to different courses all the time and figuring out what the area is like. I know what everything is like here and so many people have asked me, ‘Where do we go for this and where do we go for that.’ That’s been nice, to be able to help people out. It’s a course that I’ve played 100 times probably.
Tell me about the Conwy Golf Club.
Conwy on any day, windy or not, is a really tough golf course. Bunkers are well placed and there’s a lot of gorse around it. The greens are good. In general, I don’t think we’ll play a tougher course this season. Birkdale was quite hard as well but around here you’ve really got to be on your game and when conditions are tough it’s brutal.
You’ve won here, haven’t you?
I won the Welsh Amateur here against Becky Morgan, so it brings back good memories of when I was younger. I think I still hold that as one of my best achievements, being so young and she was someone I looked up to at the time, so playing her was a big deal for me.
Tell me about the last 12 months. How happy have you been with the way you’ve played?
If I’m being honest I’ve been a little bit disappointed. Obviously The Solheim Cup last year was unbelievable. It was a great highlight. It’s always a big goal to get in that team. Since then, I really did feel that I’d be in a position to kick on and move up another level. Although most parts of my game feel better now than they ever have done, for some reason it hasn’t come together this year and my results have been consistent, boring really, without any excitement or chances to win so hopefully everything will come together soon.
The Europeans played well at The Solheim Cup. Do you think that took the Americans by surprise?
I think it always does. They have got a tendency to under estimate the European players on the team. There were a couple of comments made during the week which I think riled some of us up which we mentioned in our press conferences at the time. I think that really helped galvanise us and make us even more determined to go out and play well. I think it would be a mistake because the standard on the European Tour is getting better and better every year. There are some great players out here and actually the European Tour is so strong at the moment and the Americans have lost a few tournaments, it’s a bit of a decision as to whether to go or not. It’s not like there’s a big gulf in the Tours like there used to be. I think it’s much closer now.
The only big difference that we see is the prize money. Some players that come back say they would rather play here than play in the States.
I think, definitely. I think when you look at the number of events, our schedule has looked pretty solid over the last few years. Talking to some of the girls, who’ve hardly been able to get into any events really, and that seems to be the way it’s going over there. Obviously there is a difference in money and they do play for a lot more but when you look at the World Ranking that someone like Melissa Reid have managed to get from playing in Europe this year, I think she’s moved into the top 60 now and it does show that things are working out better and there are definitely more reasons to stay here. Like I said, the gap between the two tours, apart from the money, is suite small. The amount of tournaments we have is a great reason to stay here.
Why do you think that you’ve had a slight dip in form?
It’s really difficult to explain because there’s not one area of my game where I’ve struggled. My swing feels better, my short game feels better; everything feels more solid. For whatever reason, sometimes when you get out there and you’re playing shots, it just doesn’t happen. You hit the lip or clip a bunker or something seems to happen in every round. You almost get to the stage where there is an air of inevitability that something bad is going to happen at some point. You can start off well but you’ve got a niggling feeling at the back of your mind that something is going to go wrong at some point. If you’ve got that, then inevitably it does. I think mentally, that’s the hardest thing more than anything: getting out of that mentality and staying positive and keep going. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world as a golfer is to stay patient and it’s the one thing that everyone says but it’s the most difficult thing in the world. You can end up going for things that you shouldn’t or straining too much to get too much out of your rounds. It’s like a domino effect and before you know it you’re playing terrible but it’s just a couple of key moments in your round that seem to change things.
The Ryder Cup is just over a month away. How big is it going to be for Wales to have The Ryder Cup?
I think we can see already how big it’s been. The growth in the number of young girls especially, young guys as well, playing is massive. There are so many opportunities now and even things that I’ve been asked to participate in; I would have loved somebody to have been there to be able to do something like that for me when I was growing up. There are 12 Welsh girls playing this week in the tournament so that shows how well things are going and there are some really good youngsters. All the Ryder Cup legacy funds that they’ve got, I recently opened a new practise facility at my home club that was funded by Ryder Cup Wales. All those things that are happening are giving us a great push to start developing more youngsters.
There are some really good golfers from Wales now, aren’t there?
There are some really good golfers and I think traditionally we’ve always been thought of as lagging behind the English and the Scots who’ve always produced quite a lot players. The Irish now have got some really good youngsters coming through. I think we are definitely catching up and the quality of the ones coming through is much, much better. The Ryder Cup hasn’t even taken place yet and the benefits have been massive already. Hopefully they’ll carry on after it’s finished.
How strong do you think the European Tour is getting?
I think the Tour is becoming very strong. There are so many people who are capable of winning. Before, if you had a good season you felt like you might be able to win five or six times, which I think now would be incredibly hard. There are different winners every week and not too many winning more than once or twice in a season. The depth of the fields is going down a long way.
It seems like every year the players coming through Q-School are getting better and younger. There are so many 17, 18 year olds, who are already great players and coming from so many different countries. I think you’re going to see growth year on year and a really strong tour.
Do you feel quite close now?
I think so. I feel like the last few weeks have been a lot better. I spent a long week with my coach before the British Open trying to get to the bottom of what’s been happening. It’s really hard when there’s nothing wrong with your swing and you’re hitting okay shots and not getting into any trouble and it’s still not happening. You’d almost rather there be something wrong so that you could see the reason behind it. Sometimes you have to get through the bad spells and grind it out as best you can and get rewarded at the end, hopefully, for staying patient. Sometimes things just click and it starts getting better.
How important is it to Wales to have a ladies’ professional golf tournament?
It is huge for us to have the Welsh Open and it’s been one of our best events over the last few years. I remember when I played at Porthcawl as an amateur, what a big event it was, what a great field, you always get some of the quality players from the other tour staying after the major events to play. To keep this event, to keep it going, would be massive for us and especially now we’ve more Welsh players coming through. You could definitely fill the field with more Welsh players and get a lot of support, which we always get at this tournament.
What would it mean to you to win here?
Apart from the British Open, this would be the most important event for me to win and it would be on a par with that as well. I think to win a major in your home nation in the UK would be unbelievable. But to win here for me, and especially here at Conwy, so close to home, I don’t think it would get much better than that.