|Karen Stupples won the Women’s British Open by five shots after starting the final round with an eagle and an albatross in a 64|
Ten years on from her magical major triumph in the 2004 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Sunningdale, England’s Karen Stupples tells Bethan Cutler why this week’s championship at Royal Birkdale is particularly special and how it could be her last hurrah.
Karen: it’s great to see you ten years on from that magical week at Sunningdale! You have a new career in broadcasting, working for Golf Channel, Sky Sports and the BBC, so what enticed you to pick up the clubs again?
Last year, after playing at St Andrews, I had a bit of a hate relationship with the game of golf and I didn’t know if I wanted to play again. At that point I made inroads with the Golf Channel and the wheels were in motion. Paul from BBC asked if I would work the men’s and women’s Open this year and I said, what a fantastic opportunity and why not, because at that point I didn’t want to play any more golf. I went back to America and played the rest of the season and had a horrid time on the golf course. It was a problem of having to put a score on a score card I didn’t like any more. I still enjoyed practising and even the six hour practice rounds. I just didn’t want to have to play to make a living. I didn’t want to have to, because the pressure of having to support my family was too much for me in the end. The end of the season came and went, I sat down with The Golf Channel and one of the tournaments they want me to work is the week of the men’s Open. I couldn’t say no to them because they were giving me 15 events to work. That was the men’s Open gone and then it’s my final year of exemption and my ten year anniversary since winning. What a way to play, to finish off potentially my British Open run and come and do it, rather than working it, just come and play and see how it goes. Hopefully by the time this season comes around I will have found some love of the game back again and I can enjoy it for what it is: a fabulous tournament at a fabulous venue.
Is this your final tournament then?
I’m never saying retire, because I think it’s very strange when players say they are going to retire and then decide that they want to play a couple of events later on. I’m only 41 and you never know when I’m going to want to pick up the sticks again and give it a whirl but at the moment I can’t see myself playing too many, let’s put it that way.
Does it seem like ten years since you won?
No, not at all. The time has literally flown by. I’ve had a child and all that entails. Everybody says that time flies when you have kids and it really does. Those last seven years have flown by and it’s been a whirlwind of golf, golf and more golf.
Do you bring Logan with you?
Always. He came to the golf course yesterday and watched me playing in the Pro-Am. He was excited by it and it was fun, because he’s never really watched me play a proper event. I’m hoping that my dad will bring him out to watch a few holes so that he gets to see his mum play in a tournament. What a place to do it! It will be emotional and I really want to make him proud.
|Karen at The 2011 Solheim Cup|
What would make you proud this week?
Not losing my temper and being patient! I still fight the urge to want to be competitive and play well. I would like to hit some quality golf shots, I would like to put a decent score together and I would like to play all four days. That would be ideal.
When was your last tournament?
My last one was in Kingsmill about six weeks ago. I played Dallas the week before that and another one in Hawaii.
What are your memories from your final round of 64 at Sunningdale ten years ago?
It was amazing because I was one shot back going into the final round and we were the second to last group out. I said to my husband the night before, because he caddies me… during the third round he was finding the dots on the greens where the final round pin placements were. I said to him at the end of the day, ‘What are the flags like for tomorrow and am I going to have to score low in order to win?’ He said, ‘The flags are very gettable and there’s a low number out there. I think you ought to get your head around the fact of going as low as you can go.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ I knew that I wanted to get off to a fast start and with the two opening par fives at Sunningdale I’m thinking I need to at least eagle one of them to draw level with Rachel Hetherington or Heather Bowie who were leading at the time. At least one eagle in those first two holes and the other one I must birdie. That gets you off to a good start. I’ve gone out there, had a good warm up, wasn’t nervous at all, going about the business of playing a golf tournament. The first tee shot I hit, I didn’t feel like I caught it that well but it went well and my husband said, ‘Wow, you really nailed that one.’
|Karen in her new TV role|
As it turned out I was 50 yards past Cristie Kerr. I hit a 5-iron to the green and made the putt. I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s my eagle. I don’t need to worry now, let’s keep going, another birdie, one foot in front of the other.’ The next hole, I hit another good drive and had another 5-iron in my hands. I hit this one and thought, ‘That’s on a good line, that’s exactly where I wanted it to go, it’s pretty nice and it lands and the gallery is clapping a little bit and the crowd gets louder and louder and louder and then they just erupt into a big roar and I thought, ‘I guess I’ve made it,’ so that was fun. Then you have all the emotions of what an absolutely unbelievable start and you think, ‘Does that really happen? Is it real?’ It is fairy tale and somewhat fated. It feels like that and you think, ‘Maybe this is the day that it’s going to happen for me. The dream as a kid might actually happen.’ But you try and put it to the back of your mind and my husband said, ‘Let’s try and shoot 59. Now we’ve got this start, why not 59?’ I thought, ‘Let’s try,’ and it felt like over every approach shot I had an opportunity to make it, because I was feeling pretty confident. As the round went on it was nip and tuck with Rachel; I made a few mistakes, she made a few birdies. It was back and forth. As I stood on the 15th tee, Rachel hit the green behind me and I only had a one shot lead at that point. I knew that the likelihood was that she would two putt and I would draw level. At that point it dawned on me, on the 15th tee, that I could actually win it; I could win the British Open. I had it there in front of me and I could see the finish line. And I got so nervous. The hands starting shaking, I could barely see my targets, the stomach’s churning. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m so nervous.’ What you dream of as a kid is actually a reality. I had been in positions before to have that but never that late on a Sunday that this is the one and it was the British Open too. It was the one I had seen growing up. I luckily hit an okay shot into 15, made the putt, the next hole I made a six foot putt for birdie and on 17 I holed a 40 foot putt for birdie, so I went birdie, birdie, birdie and pared to finish and I won by five. Being able to walk up 18 was amazing. After I had hit the green, I allowed myself to relax and take in what was going on, to look at the crowds and they were all cheering and you realise that they are doing it for you. It was something I had never experienced before and that was all because of what I had achieved on the golf course. It was very cool and I felt so proud for my parents, having sacrificed and given up so much to do it and all my friends that had given time as well. It made it very special and I hoped that in some way it was making them feel what it was making me feel.
What did it take to get to that point, to win the British Open?
Believe it or not, I was always really shy as a kid growing up. Talking to people and arranging games was always very difficult for me which was why I ended up playing golf and not tennis, because I started playing tennis at the same time as golf. When you play tennis you have to call people up for matches and I didn’t want to do that because I was too shy. I still struggle calling people and would prefer to send a text. I ended up playing golf because I could do it on my own. I didn’t need anybody to play against. I could play against the course and make my own games up and be content to be in my own company. That’s how I started playing golf. As I got older I ended up doing jobs that required me to talk to people: bar work, waitressing. You’ve got to be sociable to do those jobs, so that brought me out of my shell and enabled me to have conversations with all sorts of people about all manner of things which has stood me in good stead. I was always a good amateur but didn’t win anything mega. I was always having to work or study at university or whatever and people said to me, ‘You should get a proper job. You can’t make a living playing golf.’ I thought, ‘No, I really want to give golf a go.’ The expectations for me as a pro were not really very high and so to play as I did, to win a major, win two more tournaments, in Wales and Tucson, to play on two Solheim Cup teams and two Curtis Cup teams gives me a really good golfing resume for TV and radio work, because it gives me a wealth of experiences to draw on. The fact that I’ve had a kid and I’ve gone through motherhood and the ups and downs. I’ve played good golf and very poor golf, I’ve seen the vast array. Working in normal life and normal jobs as well I think stood me in good stead as well. All of those experiences have driven this direction towards the media. The BBC gave me my first opportunity to work at Carnoustie in 2007 and I loved it. I had an absolute blast up there and it was so much fun. I have to say that I really feel at home doing it and everything that I have done has led me towards the place where I am right now.
|Karen was a member of the victorious 2011 European Solheim Cup Team|