ENGLAND’S only LET event launches an exciting summer of golf. Called the British Masters in its inaugural year, the event is now known as the European Masters. Last year Wales’ Lydia Hall emerged triumphant by a single shot over America’s Beth Allen, thanks mainly to an opening 66 over the stunning parkland course which was designed by the former Ryder Cup captain John Jacobs. For Hall it was her first win in five years of trying. This year, with the British Open the following week, precious Solheim Cup points on the line and another bumper field guaranteed, it promises to be another thriller.
Your win came quite out of the blue last year. How confident were you?
I had the strangest feeling at The Buckinghamshire as I had a really good feeling about the week from the moment I pulled up in the car park.
The practice round was good and then I got a text from Lee Griffiths, who had worked with Mel Reid for a few years.
My coach John Peters from Southerndown and I had talked about Lee caddying for me so it was a perfect match. He built my confidence up quite a lot and was a huge help coming down the stretch.
I tend to drive well and the greens were so good it made things much easier; that might not be one of my best suits.
How did you cope with the inevitable nerves?
I was fine during the course of the first two days. But going into the last round I made a birdie at the 2nd and I was pretty nervous and excited from that point.
At the 11th I made a birdie and I got to the tee and it didn’t really suit my eye with trees down the left because I like to fade the ball.
I straight pulled it and made a double bogey – so that was a bit of a disaster and then I followed that with a bogey at the next.
The crucial shot came at the next, the par-5 14th, where I hit an enormous drive and made a birdie to get back into contention.
The 17th is renowned as a good birdie chance but also caught out quite a few?
Beth Allen was one clear and made a triple in front of me. My strategy all week was to hit the driver and we stuck to that. I made par with three putts from distance.
I hadn’t played a shot from the fairway all week and there were only five paces to play with so the more difficult shot was from the fairway and quite a few of my nearest challengers dropped shots there. My thinking was that as long as you made the carry you were fine.
There are so many sports that take priority and they get all the exposure and it is difficult to compete with them. What were you like playing the 18th hole?
I had a 7-iron and I was so nervous but I managed to hit the green. Unfortunately I missed a three-footer but still won by one.
How did you celebrate?
I had a dinner at my golf club, Southerndown, with family and friends and people who have supported me. So there were about 25 of us which was lovely.
In terms of finance, there must have been a large element of relief?
At the start of the season I had to cherry pick events and missed Australia and then missed the first couple of cuts. So I didn’t have the greatest start to the year but it took so much financial pressure off me – so, yes.
Everyone now says you must be doing well with sponsors but that’s not really the case with the women’s game.
In the past my coach qualified for the Welsh Open and he said he had several calls from manufacturers asking him to play the driver and that was for just one week of the year.
Sometimes it is hard to get everything balanced when you are totally looking after yourself.
There are so many sports that take priority and they get all the exposure and it is difficult to compete with them.
How has a change in your fitness regime helped you make some strides forward?
I used to do some Pilates and personal training with someone in Cardiff but in the last year I got together with the former Welsh scrum-half Gareth Cooper and he has brought things on a huge amount.
I see him for an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and do classes in between.
I do circuits with lots of weights and power and explosive work through my lower body and resistance work for my upper body. Otherwise it is a lot of cardiovascular work like spinning classes. It is hard work but worth it.
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