Kelsey MacDonald couldn’t stress enough how much an honour it was to hit the opening shot of the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, but something of that gloss was taken off by being tracked by rules officials almost all the way round.
The opening group of Nairn’s MacDonald, American Sarah Schmelzel and Chloe Williams were out on the clock as early as the fourth hole. MacDonald admitted that her rhythm had been upset.
‘I felt like I was having to run round’
And with the first tee shot of the 2021 AIG Women's Open, @K_Mac_59 gets the Championship underway!
— AIG Women’s Open (@AIGWomensOpen) August 19, 2021
“It was an absolute honour to hit the first tee shot, so that makes it a great day” she said after her three-over 75. “But being on the clock as early as the fourth is not ideal.
“It was one of those things. But I felt like I was having to run round and it’s not really what you want in your first experience of the Women’s Open.
“I’m a fairly quick player. It wasn’t me (that was responsible) that’s all I’m saying.”
It did seem more than a little strange to give MacDonald the honour of the opening tee shot, probably aware that she’s among the quickest players on the circuit and could set the tone for the pace of play for the day, and then have a rules official riding with her group for 14 holes.
“It’s not nice when you have a referee following you the whole way round,” she added. “I did find that quite hard.
“I’m a quick player. You have to try and forget about it. But, when your whole group is being monitored you’re aware you just have one shot you take a bit longer over, then you are going to be penalised. That’s a tough one.”
Schmelzel does have a reputation for being among the slow players on the LPGA Tour. But that being known, it also strange the R&A chose the American to be in the first group.
Miss for birdie at 15 stalled her momentum
— Nairn Dunbar Golf Club (@NairnDunbar) August 19, 2021
MacDonald did have her moments during her round, reaching two-under after six in dreich but windless conditions. A couple of bogeys around the turn weren’t terminal by any means. But a four-foot miss for birdie at the 15th – playing as tough as any on the course – robbed her of momentum.
She bogeyed the 16th, and then doubled the 17th after blocking her tee shot into the Barry Burn.
“The alarm was set at 3.30am, so it was what time of the night I got up, not how early,” she joked. “I had a shortened warm up due to the lack of light. But you’d always take a 6.30 tee-off time, with the course clear, so it all evens out.
“It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I smashed my opening drive past the bunker and away we went, so I was delighted about the start.
“I had family and friends in the stands at the first. That was a delight, obviously when you consider their alarm was pretty early, too.
“I can’t emphasise enough what an honour it was to hit the opening tee shot.
“Last week felt like a major and this week is a major. It’s amazing to be here and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”