Sophie Walker upbeat and ready to challenge for Tour honours
Humberston professional golfer Sophie Walker is preparing to tee-off in the 2013 Ladies European Tour. Here, she reflects on her performances last year and discusses her hopes and aims going forward.
Q How do you reflect on your 2012 campaign?
A I didn't play in as many events as last year due to my ranking, but even so my coach pointed out that I only missed four cuts all year so the consistency is definitely improving. Maybe I could have just done with a little more luck. I've got a new coach, Stuart Brewer, and although we've worked really hard it's been difficult transferring a swing and new ideas onto the golf course, but I feel like I've managed that most of the time and it's progressed well. I still feel like I haven't yet reached my potential in how far this golf swing can go, but it is definitely an improvement, which is great because over the last two years I've not really seen an improvement.
Q What impact has your new coach and new swing had?
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A Last year I felt like something had to change – I needed to get inspired again really. So somebody put me on to Stuart and he's probably one of the keenest golfers and golf coaches I've ever come across. Even though I'd never met him before he just wants you to do well. It was nice to have somebody like that onboard.
Q Was that injection of enthusiasm a real boost?
A Yes, it's great to have someone who's willing to invest time in you and who believes in you – that's great to have. I'm quite a strategic person and I like to have goals, aims and objectives, and I feel like I almost got lost last year because I didn't have them. This year, there have been definite things that have been set in place which I can aim for.
Q How long has it taken you to get used to the new swing?
A It was lucky in a way that I didn't go to Australia this year. I had from January through to March to work on what Stuart was telling me. I don't struggle in picking things up so that wasn't really a problem and it was nice to have a few months at home concentrating on the swing and not worrying about competition. It's okay being able to do it on the practice ground, but you need to do it on the course as well.
Q How was your game across the 2012 LET season?
A I was fresh and raring to go, and in the middle of the season tee-to-green I played fantastically but I just couldn't putt well. I went back to conventional putting and putted slightly better towards the end of the year. I was cack-handed as such, my left hand was below my right, nothing like broom-handle or anything like that. I've gone back to the conventional style now and definitely feel more comfortable over the putts. Ball-striking-wise, I've never actually hit the ball better, and statistically I'm looking pretty good, it's just getting it all to come together.
Q What was your highlight of the season?
A My best result was at the Deloitte Ladies Open and I seem to have a habit of playing well in Holland – and Scotland. I just really enjoy playing in Holland, it's quite like being in England and the golf courses are very British. I have a friend who caddies for me other there as well so that helps. There have been a lot of individual highlights, though, where I've had to put in a good second round and I seemed to have done that. There have been times where I could have easily missed the cut but shot two or three under in the second round to get in. That's been good knowing that when I need to do it, I can. I was happy with South Africa as well – that's the best I've ever hit a golf ball and that was a really good week for me.
Q Your results seem to be a lot more consistent than in 2011?
A Definitely, and on one of the occasions where I missed a cut, in Ireland, I was very ill and probably should haven't have teed it up. The other times, I've not shot really high numbers this year or let rounds get away from me. It's just about eliminating a few errors and turning a few pars into birdies – in Dubai I made a lot of pars but hardly any birdies so it's getting closer.
Q You've got your LET card for next year, so how are you approaching the new season?
A I head into 2013 in a better position than last year. I get into the Australian and Asian events this year as my ranking will probably be about 30 spots better than last year. As a result, I'm off to Australia in January for two months to get this swing better in competitions. I've been practicing in local pro-ams and can see how good I am, it's just transferring it to tournaments now. Because it has been so stop-start this year, it's been difficult to get into tournament-mode. When you're only playing one or two and then having two or three weeks off it's quite difficult. I've got about eight tournaments down under, albeit five of them are small ones, to kick-start my year.
Q What other areas of your game will you be working on?
A Putting. Obviously it's the summer in Australia so the greens down there will be fantastic and ideal to work on my short game. The swing is nearly there and there is just one bad habit we're working to iron out, but then it's just about putting and taking my chances.
Q What are your hopes and ambitions for 2013?
A I've not sat down with my coach and discussed that yet but with the way I'm playing now, I should definitely be looking to improve further. I don't want to be worrying about keeping my tour card next year, and instead of just making the cuts I want to be looking at top-30s and top-20s more regularly. It's all about looking up, rather than down.
Q Do you go into the new season excited about the possibilities?
A Definitely. It's all about having belief in yourself and what you're doing. I believe that I'm getting better as a golfer. I honestly believe that if I have a chance to win I will take that chance – I don't think that will be a problem for me. It's just about getting into those positions to win and being in the hunt going into the final round, which I haven't really done. The only time that has really happened as in Scotland in 2010 and I came second so I wasn't too far away.
Q The extra tournaments have to help with that?
A Yes, and I've been to these places now a few times so I know the course well. This year it was nice to go back to courses that I've played the last few years and see how much further I'm hitting the ball and how much better I'm playing the course. That was encouraging.
Q Is the standard on the LET going up all the time?
A Definitely, I think Dubai had the lowest cut its ever had, one over, and the talent pool is getting bigger and bigger. Women's golf is just growing massively throughout the world. At the moment I still know the people that are coming through but I suppose over the next few years I won't know them. I can remember playing against Carlota Ciganda when she was only 13, so the ones that come through at the moment you're not surprised at, but maybe in the next few years that will all change. For someone like Carlota to come in and win the money list and rookie of the year is quite spectacular really.
Q Is that an exciting challenge for you?
A The important thing is just to get yourself in the mix with these talented people. If you play with them more in tournaments then you feed off them. You can see it on the Tour the people who are playing with the better golfers and getting themselves in that position they grow. Felicity Johnson, for instance, has got herself in that next step and is the top groups playing with people like Laura Davies and Carlota, and you improve that way.