Hudson out to issue statement back on the Open trail

ON the back of an Olympic Games in which the success of women was to the fore, one Yorkshire golfer hopes this week’s British Open can further strengthen people’s opinions on the credibility of female sport.

Doncaster’s Rebecca Hudson contests the Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool, confident that the best lady golfers on the planet can build on the success of Jessica Ennis, Laura Trott and Lizzie Armitstead at London 2012.

It is Hudson’s first appearance at the flagship major for three years, but success for her this week is as much about spreading the word of women’s golf as it is matching her own ambitions.

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For the 33-year-old has seen enormous growth in the sport in her 10 years as a professional.

But with the gap closing on the men’s game, she believes women’s golf has just as much to offer as their higher-profile counterparts.

“There were so many achievements by women at the Olympics that have hopefully made the public sit up and take notice about what women sports people can achieve,” said Hudson, a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour.

“They have also demonstrated that ladies sport is interesting, that we’ve got some great characters out there.

“European women’s golf is full of characters. Britain has for a long time had Laura Davies as our ambassador. People want to watch her whether she’s winning or losing.

“When I got into the professional game 10 years ago there were eight tournaments on the European Tour.

“Now there’s a lot more and the sport is growing year on year and the depth of quality is getting better and better. The standards have improved ten-fold.

“I really do believe that ladies golf is closing the gap on men’s golf.”

The Women’s British Open is usually contested in the weeks following the men’s equivalent, but with this year’s Open at Lytham taking place just a week before the Olympics began, the women’s tournament was moved to September so it would not be ignored.

While Hudson believes that was a wise move, she also feels spectators who head to Hoylake this week will see a different version of a pastime known as ‘a good walk spoiled’.

“Watching the men is amazing because they hit it so far,” said Hudson.

“Even we watch them and are impressed by their distance.

“But what ladies golf offers is something the every day golfer can relate to a little more easily.

“We don’t hit it 325 yards off the tee.

“We cannot stop an approach shot on a two-pence piece, because we’re going into a green with a five-iron and not a sand-wedge.

“We have to manufacture shots and that makes it more watchable for the spectators and the people on television.

“What a Women’s British Open offers us is a chance not just to get women into the sport, or girls, but men and boys as well, because they can relate more to the skills we demonstrate.”

Hudson’s time on the professional scene has coincided with the rise of Asian golf, which has taken off on the women’s side a lot more rapidly than it has in the men’s game. The last six majors have been won by women from the Far East with Yani Tseng of Taiwan the two-time defending Open champion and the world’s No 1 ranked player.

Such domination from outside western marketplaces has the capacity to negate growth, yet Hudson concedes that while there is a paucity of bankable characters coming from the east, those who have enjoyed success have changed the sport for the better.

“Asian golfers are incredibly hard workers,” she said.

“The few Asian girls we have on our tour practice for hours on end.

“It has raised standards because we’re having to work harder to keep up with them. They are fantastic golfers.”

Away from growing her chosen profession, the young woman who learned the game at Wheatley Hills, has ambitions of her own.

Having earned her breakthrough win on the Ladies European Tour in 2006, followed by back-to-back victories in a career purple patch in 2008, she has had to deal with a dip in form over recent years.

She attributes the downslide and her subsequent revitalisation this year to the nature of golf being a confidence game, whether you are a man or a woman.

With the wind in her sails in 2012, Hudson has enjoyed two third-place finishes and three-more top-20 placings.

She got back into the Open by virtue of being in the top 25 on the money list after last month’s British Masters.

A glittering amateur career which included wins in Yorkshire, Britain and Europe might not have paved the way for as storied a career in the paid ranks, but with the promise she has shown this year, she goes into her favourite event comfortable with her game and confident of making a statement.

“It’s been hard watching the British Open on the television the last couple of years so it’s nice to be back,” she said.

“I played at Royal Liverpool as an amateur and I went over and played a couple of practice rounds before I flew out to last week’s tournament in Austria.

“It’s a great course. A fair test,” she said.

“What is so attractive for spectators, and so interesting for us as players, is that you can be 100 yards away from the flag on a links course and you have to use your imagination.

“Links golf is a test of mental ability and the players that do well are the ones that meet that challenge.

“My aim is to finish in the top 15 to get back into it next year, but before that the target is to hit every golf shot how I want to hit it and where I want it to go, and after that hopefully results take care of themselves.”

Twitter: @NwestbyYpSport