Laura Davies: She has still got drive despite tour transformation

Britain's four-times major winner is just shy of turning 50 and has seen the world of women's golf change dramatically – yet her desire is as fierce as ever, she tells Brian Viner

A 14-year-old amateur golfer from Bangalore, Aditi Ashok, stole the headlines on the opening day of the Hero Women's Indian Open in New Delhi last week. Young Ashok shot a brilliant 69 and finished the day with a share of the lead. But just two shots back – although not mentioned at all in the media coverage – was a woman fully 35 years Ashok's senior.

Yes, Laura Davies is still going strong, still thumping the ball a country mile, and still hanging out with the caddies, which helps her cope with a women's tour that has changed dramatically since she herself burst on to the scene in 1985. "The tour has changed completely," she says. "The Korean girls all travel with their families. They all have coaches, nutritionists, fitness trainers. There's not much locker-room camaraderie any more. But because I spend all my time with the caddies, I have the same fun that I've always had."

Davies will turn 50 next October, and very few of her contemporaries are still lugging themselves around the world like she is. Moreover, she lugs herself and her caddie in economy, refusing to pay for business-class flights. "If someone else is paying then it's nice to be in the pointy end of the plane," she says. "But otherwise, when you land you think, 'What a waste of money that was'. Depending on where you're playing, you've often got to finish in the top 10 of a tournament to break even."

In New Delhi she finished seventh, and promptly packed for the Gulf, where she plays in the Dubai Ladies Masters, which begins today. "I'll carry on as long as I think I can win," she says. "And right now, my only thought on the first tee at the start of a tournament is winning. My ball-striking is as consistent as it's ever been. If I could just hole a few putts..."

It is the perennial lament of the old-timer; that the putts won't drop like they once did. And Davies, last time she looked, had dropped to 170-odd in the world rankings. "But the way they work out the rankings is very strange," she says. "I won five times in 2010 and moved up a ridiculously small amount. It's very biased towards the Japanese tour and the LPGA [US] tour. European players get a raw deal. But I only have myself to blame. My highest finish in America this year is 17th."

Davies' career record over there, however, is truly impressive. She has won 20 LPGA events down the years, was the first non-American to finish top of the LPGA money list, and all four of her major championship victories have been Stateside.

It is a curious anomaly that in the British Women's Open she has never finished higher than eighth, but even so, she is comfortably the most accomplished female player Britain has produced, at least since Joyce Wethered in the 1920s. And such is her longevity that she has played in every single Solheim Cup, the biennial tournament between Europe and the US, since the contest began in 1990.

So, there is not much room in her locker for regrets, although one of them concerns her sole appearance in a men's European Tour event, the ANZ Championship in Australia in 2004. She missed the cut and finished second-last, but feels now that the invitation came at the wrong time.

"I'd just had 10 weeks off and my first tournament back was a men's event. It wasn't ideal. But I enjoyed the experience. I'm sure there were a few saying I'd taken someone else's spot, although there was no face-to-face hostility. I played with Jean Van de Velde, who was very nice to me. But, if it had come when I was No 1 in the world between 1992 and 1997, playing at my absolute best, confidence through the roof, then who knows? I'm not saying I would have won or even made the cut, but I'd have been full of confidence."

There is less chance now of a top female player making an impact on a men's tournament, she thinks, because equipment changes have favoured the men, with their extra strength. And there is, she adds, another growing disparity between the women's game and the men's. "The money wasn't vastly different when I started. Now they're playing for $7m [£4.35m] or $8m a week, and we're playing for $1.5m, $1.8m."

The $9m that she has accumulated in career prize-money would be upwards of $40m, she reckons, if she were Larry rather than Laura. "I'm not complaining about it. We're paid to play the sport we love, and there's certainly money to be made at the top end of the game. But if you stack us up against the men, we look like second-class citizens."

Actually, I venture, some of them look more like supermodels, and Davies is all for a bit of glamour, not that she ever exudes it herself on the golf course. "I've never worn anything at all daring," she says, with a merry laugh, "but I like to see a bit of style on the golf course. I don't see why you can't combine glamour and sport, and it helps to tempt youngsters into the game. I like to see people having fun out there, in fact I'd like to see more of it.

"We need more of the Michelle Wies, the Paula Creamers. Unfortunately, some of the top players now win a tournament and you wouldn't know. They never seem to get excited."

That was never so of her hero, Seve Ballesteros. "I played with Seve on a few occasions, and learnt so much from the way he looked at shots and worked them out." She would have loved, she adds, to have partnered Seve against John Daly and Fred Couples, her dream fourball at least from the pro ranks.

As an avid fan of Liverpool FC, and royalty, her real dream fourball would have been with Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Diana, Princess of Wales. "I don't know if she played golf, but if she had..."

Sky Sports HD will show live coverage of the Dubai Ladies Masters between 5 and 8 December as part of the year-round schedule of women's golf on Sky

Davies' career factfile

Born 5 October, 1963, Coventry

Turned professional 1985

Tournament victories 82

LPGA Tour victories 20

Major wins Four [US Women's Open 1987; LPGA Championship 1994, 1996; Du Maurier Classic 1996]

* Davies was the first non-American to top the LPGA money list. The 49-year-old has also won the LET Order of Merit seven times, a record [1985, '86, '92, '96, '99, 2004, '06].

* She has also represented Europe in all 12 stagings of the Solheim Cup – the only European to do so – helping the continent to wins in 1992, 2000, 2003 and 2011, totalling 25 points from 46 matches.

* Named Ladies Tour Player of the Year in 1996 and European Player of the Year in 1996 and 1999.

* Awarded the MBE in 1988 and a CBE 12 years later.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower