Happy amateur Emma setting tough targets

Bill Bridge meets Emma Duggleby, whose golfing ambitions for the year will be packed into a hectic seven-week programme.

FOR a woman who has achieved virtually everything in her chosen sport of golf, Emma Duggleby still has ambitions.

Most pressing – and nothing to do with golf – is to help Malton and Norton's netball team to safety in their struggle against relegation from the Second Division of the York and District League.

In the longer term, it is her intention to improve her handicap to plus four – "just so I can say I did it," she says.

There are other targets for this summer: regaining the Yorkshire championship is one; a good run in the British Open one more; retaining the Vagliano Trophy – an annual contest between the top British and Irish amateurs against the best of the rest of Europe – another; doing well in the English Amateur and stroke-play championship are imperatives; helping Yorkshire to success in the Northern then the national team championships are still more.

And all that has to be achieved in a seven-week period beginning in May which is all the golf season she has.

Work is golf and golf is work – enjoyable though it is – for Emma. For most of the year she works for four days a week in the professional's shop at Malton and Norton Golf Club; the other working day she is behind the keyboard and answering the phone in the secretary's office. She also covers for colleagues' holidays so she is always busy – and always thinking of golf.

But never too busy, even in the biting winds of January, not to have time to hit 50 or so golf balls. That, she says, is "ticking over".

Netball, two or three visits a week to the gym and 30 or so lengths of the swimming pool once or twice a week, keep her in good physical shape and together have helped her develop more power with the driver.

Come springtime, she will start to work more closely with her coach, Steve Robinson, who also happens to be her employer as Malton's professional as well as golfing partner in evening rounds before the real thing kicks into action.

Emma came to golf through her parents, who were both keen members at Malton although father has since given up the game. Mum still plays – "We play together quite often and I give her a few tips when I can, although whether she listens is another thing," says Malton's finest.

Mrs Duggleby is still the chief supporter, travelling with Emma to most of her tournaments, taking on the role of mentor and caddie.

Emma took up golf at 12 years old, an ideal time, she reckons, as girls younger than that do not have the strength to hit the ball far enough to enjoy the game. At 17, she had a handicap of two and soon reached the magical scratch. But she made little impact on any major competition until, at 21, she won the 1994 British Amateur Open championship at Newport.

"I had been in England training squads and that sort of thing but had never done anything really until that week. I won my first round match, then my second and the confidence grew," she recalls. She beat the exotically-named French golfer Cecilia Mourgue d'Alge in the final.

That was the start of a career which brought immense success but which has left her with no ambition to turn professional.

Instead, she wants to continue playing at the highest left of amateur golf for as long as she can – and achieve that plus four handicap.

"It will not be easy," she confesses, "because we do not play that many medal rounds in a season. Most of the major events, after qualifying, are match-play. But the qualifying for the Yorkshire, the English and the British championships – plus a few rounds at my home club – give me a chance."

Come next month she will start the build-up to the new season in earnest, working with Robinson and refining her swing. "I am always working on something," she says.

Then comes an England team training week in Portugal, followed by the Yorkshire championship, the English championship at Burnham and Berrow in Somerset, the British championship at Littlestone in Kent, the European team championship in Sweden and the Vagliano Trophy in Paris, when Britain and Ireland will be hoping to retain the title they won at Co Louth in 2003.

The Northern Ladies County championship is being played at West Lancashire GC at Crosby on Merseyside and the English finals will be at Brancepeth Castle in Co Durham.

Between events she goes back to Malton, enjoys a couple of days off then goes back to practice and, when possible, playing with the club men's team in their scratch league matches. "That is brilliant. I know most of the lads who play in the league and playing good-quality match-play off the back tees is good for my game," she says.

She has played in three Curtis Cup matches against the United States and has also enjoyed playing tournaments in the States and South Africa but this year, Sweden and Paris apart, the passport will hardly be needed.

"That's how it goes," she says philosophically. "Some years you travel a lot, others not so much. I still get a great thrill setting off for the airport and it would be nice to play in the next Curtis Cup in the States and stay on for the US Amateur in Oregon."

Memories of the 2000 Curtis Cup match at Ganton, just along the A64 from Malton, still bring a smile. "It is my favourite golf course in Yorkshire – I play there maybe four or five times a year – and to have the local support there was brilliant," she says.

But asked to name her favourite course of all, she has no doubts.

"It has to be Sunningdale Old. It is a lovely course in a beautiful setting and there is a great sausage-sandwich shop halfway round."

bill.bridge@ypn.co.uk

In the swing with Emma Duggleby

Emma Duggleby factfile:

Born: October 5, 1971.

Curtis Cup: 2000 Ganton; 2002 Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania; 2004 Formby (won 7, halved 1, lost 4).

Represented Great Britain: Vagliano Trophy (v Europe) in 1995, 2001 and 2003; Espirito Santo Trophy (World Cup) 2002 and 2004.

Represented England: Since 1994.

British Open Amateur: 1994 winner; 2000 and 2001 runner-up.

European Open Amateur: 2000 winner.

South African Open Amateur match-play: 2002 winner.

English Amateur championship: 2000 winner; 2003 winner; 2001 runner-up.

English Amateur stroke-play championship: 1998 winner; 1997 runner-up.

English Amateur order of merit: 2003 winner; 2004 runner-up.

Scottish Open Amateur stroke-play championship: 2004 winner; 2000 runner-up.

South Atlantic Open Amateur (Florida): 2003 runner-up.

Yorkshire County championship: 2000 and 2002 winner; runner-up six times.

Daily Telegraph Lady Golfer of the Year: winner 2004.