Astrid Vayson de Pradenne has returned to the scene of her maiden professional victory in the Jabra Ladies Open three months ago to compete in the Evian Championship and described the feeling as “true happiness.”
Astrid qualified for the fifth Major courtesy of her win in the Jabra Ladies Open, which was the first ‘Dual Ranking’ event between the LET and its developmental tour, the LET Access Series.
She is one of four French players in the field of 120 world class players teeing up at the Evian Resort Golf Club from Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the championship, she said: “Stepping back on the 18th during my practise round, I just felt quite emotional remembering the great memories. You almost don’t recognise it with all the hospitality tents. All the flowers are pink and red and you have the green everywhere. I feel like I’m at a baby Augusta, the female Augusta.”
The Evian Resort Golf Course has been set up to present a stern test for the Evian Championship and she continued: “The course is different after the summer. Walking on the grass, you can feel it’s a lot firmer and landing the ball in the right place on the green is a bigger challenge. Jabra was very much target golf and now here you have to shape your shots better and read how the ball is going to roll. The set-up is also longer. I had a pitching wedge on nine in the Jabra and in the Evian, even with the fairways giving more roll we are so far back on the tee box and I have a 3-iron into that green. It’s going to be a good challenge and that’s what you expect at a major.”
Fellow LET and LET Access Series member Marion Duvernay will act as her caddie and Astrid thinks this will be a significant advantage as the fellow Frenchwoman knows the course well, having learned her golf at the Evian Resort Academy. They will be on the tee at 12:37 on Thursday, playing with Japan’s Ayako Uehara and former Evian Masters champion Paula Creamer, but the strategy is to approach it as per any other day.
Having earned a winner’s exemption to the LET courtesy of the Jabra Ladies Open victory, Astrid has experienced playing in front of large galleries at the Ladies European Thailand Championship, Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, Ricoh Women’s British Open and European Team Championships this summer, which will stand her in good stead this week. However, she was unfortunately struck on the finger and injured by a fellow competitor’s golf ball whilst standing on the eighth tee on the second day of the European Team Championships, which was a set-back and affected her team’s chances.
It’s been an incredible turn of events for the part-time physiotherapist, who earlier this year was considering giving up golf.
She explained: “The thing that really made me think about it this year was the government and Macron putting his liberal mind into the healthcare sector. Being a part-time physiotherapist I know what it means for my colleagues and I even experienced it when I worked for 12 weeks this year. He wants to stop us from working freely where we want and to control the population of physiotherapists within specific areas of France. This reform was implemented this summer, so before coming to Jabra, I thought, if you want to work within your designated area where your friends and family are, you might have to pause the golf career and become a full-time physio. It crossed my mind, but then Jabra happened, so now I have the opportunity to play golf.
“Before that, my goal was to get my LET card, but you go to a Scottish, British Open, Thailand, far away countries, and you want to do more; it’s like you have a virus. You look at the big names and think, ‘I want to get there!’ You put new goals in place to achieve greatness.
“I’m 32, but I’ve stopped putting deadlines on my golf career now. As long as you’re passionate and you’re still improving, you keep trying.”
She is grateful for the support of French banking giant Société Generale, who have supported and welcomed her to their team this week. “No-one did that before, so to have a big company supporting you in a major is something big for an athlete.”
There is no doubt that the Evian Championship represents a major moment for Astrid.