Beth Allen: The American on dominating Europe in 2016
This week Beth Allen will be crowned the first American to win the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit – the 34-year-old Californian could be caught by China’s Shanshan Feng but the Olympic bronze medallist hasn’t played in the necessary six tournaments to be eligible.
Allen has done it through a mixture of two wins, in France and Abu Dhabi and six other top 10s as well as getting married (to former LET pro Clare Queen) and last week qualifying for the LPGA Tour, a Tour she left behind in 2007.
None of this should come as a surprise though; the American has improved year on year on the LET – 22nd (2012), 17th (2013), 8th (2014) and 5th last year.
And she has achieved all of this with just one kidney. Her elder brother, Dan, spent years chained to a dialysis machine, now he he is back playing golf and living a very normal life. Allen likened the procedure to ‘having your appendix taken out’, what she doesn’t need to expand on is that she had to twice go through three days of 24-hour urine collection, a CT scan of all her organs, two electro cardiograms and, as she says, a lot of blood work.
The after-effects are merely that she now drinks more water…
How many Majors will you now be eligible for in 2017?
I’m pretty sure I’ll get in all of them, some championships haven’t set out their exemptions for next year but the top two are generally exempt for all five and that doesn’t go up to three if one of the top two are already exempt.
The only Major I’ve not played in is the ANA in Palm Springs, I played the others when playing in America, and that is just two hours from where I grew up so that would be brilliant.
You are No 1 in Europe and 64th in the world – what do you make of that?
I’ve seen a lot of chat on Twitter recently, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff was second in Mexico and moved down a spot! I don’t pay attention to it a lot. It is difficult to break into the top 50 playing full time on LET, if I do well it’s difficult to make big leaps. It would have been nice for Q School, the top 40 went straight to the final stage. That is pretty much the only way it would make a big difference to me.
Your first win this year came in France by four shots, how comfortable was that?
I was down by three at the turn and the 11th there is really volatile, anything can happen, the green is borderline. After a birdie at 10 and par at 11 I was one ahead and played solid down the stretch. That was probably the best I have played under pressure, the back nine I was four under.
I wasn’t sure walking down the last so I asked Sophie what I was leading by? We thought three but crazy things have happened at the 18th before there so I tried not to think about it, miss the green left and you can be on the putting green. Thankfully I holed a 20-footer for birdie.
— Gary Player (@garyplayer) October 10, 2016
Your first win came at The Buckinghamshire last year, what is the difference winning for a second time?
The self-belief, you know you can actually do it. I have been second and close so many times, then it happened last year so I didn’t put that pressure on myself.
Then I played well all year this year and was top of the money list but there was but no second win so I am thinking about it again. The week before France I had been busy with life stuff, we went to a wedding in New York so I hadn’t much and I got there late the night before the pro-am. So I showed up and played really good but had low expectations. The first time there was so much going on in my head, the second time I let it happen.
And it was your first win as a married woman?
Yeah, we got married in Scotland, the week before the Scottish. We could work it around so some players could come and friends could watch at Dundonald. So in July I played the US Open, got married and played the Scottish and British Opens. So that was a busy month!
Other than the Evian I haven’t finished outside the top 10 since we got married.
You have lived in Scotland for three years and have a Scottish wife, how Scottish have you become?
American people tell me I’ve picked up the accent, Scottish don’t pick up on it at all. I definitely eat haggis, and I drink Irn-Bru, normal Scottish things, and I go to the pub!
Your caddy (Sophie Gustafson) is a pretty good player, was it intimidating at the beginning to have an eight-time Solheim Cup player on your bag?
It was weird at the start, I wasn’t nervous but it was a bit surreal. The good thing was that we were already friends, it would have been different if we didn’t know each other properly.
She was really passionate about wanting to stay in the game and wanted to help me and I am a good fit for her. Sophie is so experienced and knew what I needed, I knew I wanted to get a win and she knew that. I trust her and she knew that as well. She hadn’t caddied before so it was a good way to start having that respect for one another.
What is the best advice she has given you?
Most of the time it is down the stretch, she will have a comment to stop me worrying about everyone else and to focus on my own game. The biggest cliché is to stay in the present and she really helps me to stay in the moment. She makes me think about what I’m doing.
When waiting to hit we will be talking about our plan and that is so valuable, it is easy to say but not always easy to do and that really helps me.
You are now on the players’ board, what do you make of the Scottish Open now being co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour?
I don’t see it as a bad thing at all, we have 80 LET players who have the chance to play for a huge purse. For me I am really excited to play that sort of tournament in Scotland, I enjoyed the previous pro-am format a lot but for a national Open there will be a huge focus on it.
We shouldn’t be intimidated by anything, it is co-sanctioned but it is half and half and it could work well to do more of that.
As long as it is properly co-sanctioned, and half and half, then there should be no problem.
And what do you make of the current health of the LET?
As players we all want to play more and play for more money, and we do a lot of travelling but look at the men’s Tour, they travel a lot as well. The events in the Middle East have the highest purses that we have and if we can get that into a swing, instead of going back and forth, then that is a great opportunity for the Tour.
There used to be more events in Europe but things change, hopefully we’ll see some changes and new events on the 2017 schedule.
The win in Abu Dhabi came courtesy of a final-round 64. How hard is it to keep going forward rather than trying to protect your score?
Well I did that in Spain and ended up losing at the last so that was another lesson learnt. That doesn’t really work. In Abu Dhabi I has so much adrenaline and was so in the moment, that course was great as it was a birdie fest. There were a lot of wedges and mid irons and that is a big strength of my game. I kept hitting it close and it felt quite easy.
The 18th is a hard finishing hole so that played on my mind a bit, I hadn’t hit a fairway all week and I was honest with Sophie. She just said we’ll worry about it when we get there.
Even if I hadn’t won I would have loved the place, 21 under is much better for everyone rather than a winning score around par. Why not have reachable par 5s to help showcase us.
I thought it was perfect, the turf was quite sandy so that was a bit different and a challenge but it was in great condition and the wind would come up in the afternoons.
And you are now also a member of the LPGA Tour?
I have always wanted to write out a schedule and tick all the events that I want to play in. I will sit down with both schedules at end of the year and plan my 2017. I’m 34, I’m not trying to beat the world, if I happen to make the Solheim Cup team that would be amazing. My home is in Scotland and that’s where my life is, I will have weeks off and have a plan.
It’s been a stunning year, in every sense, what did you hope for at the start of 2016?
I have never set goals in a formal way, I will assess what I have achieved and set realistic goals. For 2015 one goal was to be in the top five in Europe and break into the top 100 in the world – I did that and then thought I want to do better than that. I have gone on and shown myself what I am capable of.
I want to do better in the Majors, I did well at Woburn where I was 14th, so that would be one goal. But I hate setting myself up for failure so I will have some ideas but I won’t beat myself up if doesn’t happen.