RWBO 18: ‘Lytham is a great course with a great history'

Former Solheim Cup captain Mickey Walker on the magic of Royal Lytham and the future of the Ladies European Tour

On the Women’s British Open returning to Royal Lytham…

It is a really tough course at Lytham, which sounds like a bit of a cliché because where ever the British Open is played it’s obviously going to be difficult.

Aesthetically, it’s not the most attractive of courses, but it’s a challenging test of golf and it has a particularly difficult start.

When you have a par 3 as an opening hole it is easy to start with a bogey and then it seems like you are already struggling. Then after that you’ve got those really tough holes running parallel to the railroad line.

It’s by the sea but it’s not a links track, although it plays a lot like it.

The tidal changes can impact the direction of the wind, which makes the course either harder or easier. I think the weather is everything really. When the weather is really benign the players can take it apart.

It’s a great course with a great history. It has hosted the men’s and women’s opens a number of times and had some brilliant champions.

Historically, Lancashire is one of the strongest areas for women’s golf and for producing female players.

The club will embrace it, it really is a hot bed for producing excellent players and for hosting big events like the Curtis Cup, just like they also did down the road at Formby Ladies.

We will get the crowds and lots of people turning out for it. I have heard from lots of people who are going to be attending. Not just from Lancashire, but also travelling from the surrounding counties. Other friends have booked in to marshal holes.

I think whether we have an open at Birkdale or Royal Lytham we will always get a good attendance in that part of the north west.

It’s always really well supported, not just by the women but also the men because they also really love golf.

It was fantastic when Catriona won there, it was a wonderful story. She appeared on all the national TV channels, everyone wanted her, and there were so many articles about her.

It was a great, feel good story because she had her daughter Sophie just 10 weeks before and because we hadn’t had a British winner in so long. Everybody was delighted and it was really deserved.

Obviously Laura Davies has been brilliant for women’s golf and she’s still doing really well now, but year in, year out Catriona has also been fantastically successful.

Because of her personality and the fact that she is quite quiet, she hasn’t maybe had the publicity or the acknowledgment of how great a player she is that she deserves.

For so many years she has been so consistent at such a high level. She has never done anything that would mean she would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

She is a true professional in every sense and a wonderful player. She really deserved that major.

The Open will be shown live on Sky but I think it will only attract more coverage than it normally does if a British player wins. It happened when Catriona won, she got a lot of publicity because she was the first British player to win since Karen Stupples in 2004.

Only if a British player like Charley Hull or Georgia Hall were to win will it get more publicity than it normally does.

On the future of the Ladies European Tour…

The standard at the top level of women’s golf, and even on the feeder tours like the Ladies European Tour Access Series is just incredible. It’s just getting better and better. If you look at the players who are struggling to make cuts, it’s amazing because they are really top players.

There are also so many players who the general public don’t know about who are really, really impressive.

I was at the Buckinghamshire the day before US Open qualifying, and there was so much going on to promote golf to women, juniors and the general public.

There were three pros there who gave up there time to do a Q&A with the juniors.

I just thought they were outstanding in the way they communicated, gave up their time and the image they presented.

They were just brilliant yet nobody really knows about them. They are just three working pros who do a wonderful job. It’s such a shame that they don’t have more opportunities to play and improve their game.

I just came away thinking how sad it was and I really felt for the players because they don’t have more tournaments to play in.

I know the media is changing in the way they cover sporting events. It used to be measured through column inches in the newspapers but I know that the LET and all the players are embracing social media. I think they get quite a lot of coverage on there.

The tour needs more sponsors and I appreciate that every business will look at how they spend their budget really carefully.

It is very difficult to extract money from businesses given the uncertainty of what is happening on the LET. Also, it is so competitive.

You look at the success of women’s rugby, cricket and netball. For someone who follows women’s sports, there isn’t even a case for saying that golf deserves it more because those sports have also had a lot of global success.

It’s very easy to say we should have more sponsors but it’s very hard to get more.

Mark Lichtenstein and the LET are doing a good job but it needs to really change for it to impact on the playing opportunities of British and European tour players.

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