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Carly’s chipping away to find her golden talent again

by Graham Otway

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Rebuilding her game: Carly Booth in full swing

When Carly Booth first made golfing headlines she was aged just12 and many predicted she would go on to have a successful career at the highest level in the sport.

That scene was set at the Forest of Arden in 2005 when she was invited to play in the Wednesday pro-am the day before the start of the British Masters.

As a young Scot, Booth was excited to be paired to play with Sandy Lyle a winner of both The Open and The Masters and in those days still a leading figure in the world game.

But after playing with her for 18 holes it was Lyle who was even more excited, not just because he and his young partner won the pro-am, but also because of the talent she possessed at such a tender age.

“I had heard about this up-and-coming star near where I lived,” recalled Lyle when asked about Booth ten years later. “And when I got the chance to play with her I was very impressed.

“Lengthwise she was good, but what really impressed me was her ability to play a range of chip shots around the greens which you don’t see in many players of that age.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - MAY 5:  11 year-old amateur Carly Booth of Scotland walks with fellow Scotsman and two time major champion Sandy Lyle on the ninth hole during the Pro-Am event prior to the Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters on the Eden course at the Forest of Arden on May 5, 2004 near Coventry, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Two Scots: 11 year-old Booth and The Open winner Sandy Lyle on the 18th at the pro-am  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

“You have really got to be sharp to play all types of chip shots and feel the way the ball is going to go up to the hole and that was a great asset she had. With that I thought she would go many, many places.”

Booth did go places. As a 14-year-old she qualified to play alongside several professional in the 2007 Scottish Ladies Open at the Carrick Club on the banks of Loch Lomond and finished a creditable 13th. In the same year she won the European Junion Masters.

She turned pro in 2009 and, before reaching her 20th birthday, had won both the Scottish and Swiss Open titles on the Ladies European Tour.

However, that meteroric rise through the ranks has slowed down in the last three seasons and she is currently 100th on this year’s LET money list having made only €2,025 from five tournaments and missing the cut last time out at the Lala Meryem Cup in Morocco.

And the irony of all ironies is the fact that the one part of her game which is letting her down is her current lack of success at saving shots around the greens.

She owed her childhood short game to her father Wally, a former Scottish Commonwealth games silver medallist wrestler, who used 100 acres of family land to build her and her brother Wallace, who is also a pro now, a nine-hole practice course with small greens to hone those skills.

Asked about her fall down the rankings she said: “I have started working with a new coach and asked him to look over all of my game – I am trying to get everything a little more simple with my swing and working on my short game.

“I am losing out there right now. It is a bit on my chipping but my putting more so. What I need to do is to rebuild my confidence on the greens.”

It was having her course at home that persuaded Booth initially to pursue a career in golf rather than follow up on her youthful achievements as a swimmer and representing Scotland as a gymnast.

She admits now, however, that the overall journey from a teenage prodigy into a leading member of the golfing ranks has not been an easy road.

“It took me a few years to find my feet because when I first turned professional I was trying to finish school as well and that was pretty hard.

“It’s different, too. When you are a kid it’s all about enjoying it and the whole process of growing up and playing bigger tournaments and getting experience. And I had some amazing experiences.

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Triumph: Carly Booth and partner Breanne Loucks of Wales celebrate winning their Curtis Cup match in 2008 at St Andrews

“But when you turn pro expectation levels are different. You have sponsors and people to perform for and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it for them.

“It is tough out on Tour because all the best golfers in the world seem to have their ups and downs. It’s just about finding that balance and trying to remember that every day is a new day on the golf course.

“Being a pro has its ups and down but I have also managed to experience so many amazing things and feel I am very blessed to do what I do every day and travel the world.

“It’s not all the glamour and glory that some people think it is, though. We have to work hard to make a living. We go to a lot of airports and hotels. We go to all those amazing places but you don’t necessarily see them. You are at the golf course all day.”

With 17-year-old New Zealander Lydia Ko now top of the ladies world rankings and another English teenager, Charley Hull, heading last year’s European Tour money list, Booth is no longer seen as the fast rising star of the game.

Winning in a sport which was a habit for her only a few years ago is now a much tougher task as she adds, “The Tour is getting stronger and stronger every year with so many young ones coming through.

“When I was growing up there were not that many girls who played golf so I was always playing with the boys. But in recent years I think we have done a lot ourselves to promote golf and the women’s game. I am always trying to think of ways to keep promoting it and get more sponsors involved and raise the prize funds.

“Now there are so many impressive lady golfers out there. Now that we have had live TV coverage over the last couple of years which has been a big hit you can see more girls playing and the competition is getting even greater.

“And when they see Laura Davies still playing at her age they learn that with our sport there is no limit to how long you can go on for. Our sport is one of those you can enjoy until you can’t walk any more.”

That is still a long time off in Booth’s case. More urgently her aim is to get her game back in shape during the summer so she can qualify to play in the Solheim Cup against the Americans in Germany in September.

She did not make the team that produced an emphatic 18-10 victory over their transatlantic rivals at the Colorado Golf Club in 2013 but, having sensed the excitement of her fellow European Ladies Tour players with that display, she wants to be a part of the Cup defence.

“Playing in the Solheim Cup is something I have always wanted to do,” she said. “But first I have got to find my feet again. “I am going to be building and building my game and if I start winning again the Solheim Cup will follow.”

*This article was originally published in The Golf Paper on 15 April 2015

 

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