Heading into Royal Troon, Kristen Gillman will be playing in her third AIG Women’s Open, and looking to potentially compete for the title. Here, we reflect on her first event at Turnberry in 2015.
Gillman is an up-and-coming star. Ranked 46th in the world, she is already a force to be reckoned with on the LPGA Tour.
Yet in 2014, at the tender age of 16, the precocious young talent was unheralded in the game, and little was known about her. Her victory in the US Women’s Amateur soon changed that, and earned her a spot in the 2015 AIG Women’s Open at Turnberry.
“It was amazing,” Gillman said, “just because winning that tournament gets you into so many events and gives you so many opportunities. I’ve always watched the Women’s Open on TV but obviously I’d never played in one, so I was really excited to play at Turnberry for my first one, to kind of be challenged by that new style of golf.”
Turnberry was not just Gillman’s first taste of the AIG Women’s Open, it was also her first experience of links golf.
“I love feeling like I’m challenged on the golf course and that was the first time I’d ever played a links-style golf course,” she said. “I think it was the first time I’d ever played links.
“I‘ve played some tournaments that have been links since then, but I love a links golf course because I feel like you have to think over every shot. I like that style of course and it’s just a nice change up to what we usually play in the States. I love how you have to manage your way around the golf course, and I feel like you get rewarded for hitting good shots, especially with tough conditions.”
“That day it was windy and rainy and it was just bad weather but we were like, this is so cool!” Kristen Gillman
Gillman was still only 17 when she teed it up at Turnberry in 2015. Although it was not her first major championship, that did not stop some understandable nerves from emerging.
“I was nervous, but I kinda didn’t really have that much expectation on myself and I was largely just trying to enjoy the experience,” Gillman said. “I was definitely nervous to tee it up there but thankfully it wasn’t my first professional tournament ever so at least I had a couple of events played before. I was just trying to enjoy it and take it all in.”
The conditions that week were testing and, after a solid opening round of 74, Gillman turned in a Friday round of 79 for a nine-over total of 153. Despite missing the cut by four shots, Gillman learned a lot and took away some lasting memories from Friday’s round.
“It was pretty cool because my dad got to caddy for me,” Gillman said. “We grew up watching a lot of golf together. I remember that usually when you’re playing the British Open you don’t want it to be bad weather, but on the second day me and my dad were like, this is so cool, we get to play in the traditional Open weather!
"Even though it was tough, it was funny because that day it was windy and rainy and it was just bad weather but we were like, this is so cool!”
As an established tour professional, Gillman returned to the AIG Women’s Open in 2019 to record a T35 finish. In what will be her third appearance, the Texas native is looking forward to what Royal Troon has to offer in 2020.
“I’m really excited to get back,” she said, “and I’m really excited for this year at Royal Troon. I feel like my game fits links golf really well, and so I think going over there and playing a links golf course in the Women’s Open definitely fits my game. So hopefully I can get a good finish this year.”