Golf: Davies a model of ambition: Laura Davies has improved her confidence and the consistency of her golf by changing the shape of her game. Tim Glover reports

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The Independent Online
GENTLEMEN would no more ask a woman's weight than they would her age. In the case of Laura Davies, she is happy to reveal her vital statistics. More than happy. She is proud to do so.

At the age of 29, Europe's finest woman golfer is beginning to look like a shadow of her former self. Davies is on a crash diet and the results thus far have been so beneficial she could qualify as a role model for one of those before and after ads.

Just like Tommy Lasorda, the veteran manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. Lasorda, who owns an Italian restaurant, was built like a beach ball. Now he looks like a baseball bat. Six months ago Davies, all 18 stones of her, was watching television in Springfield, Illinois when the lighter figure of Lasorda appeared on the screen. He was extolling the virtues of Slimfast, a sort of milkshake substitute for food, and the bottom line was that he was living proof that it worked.

Davies sat up and took notice. 'He was advertising a new carton in which the drink was ready made,' she said. 'I thought that'll be so easy. I'll have a go.' She went to the supermarket the next morning and filled her fridge with the stuff. Instead of eating breakfast and lunch she reaches for the carton.

She has lost four stones and is aiming to lose another 20 pounds. 'It's a challenge I've set myself. I'd never tried a diet before and it takes tremendous willpower. I've no intention of putting it back on. I want to play golf for the next 10 years.' Davies also bought a set of scales which she carries around with her for everyday use. 'I have bad days,' she admitted, 'especially when I'm travelling. I might have a pizza and a lager otherwise it's misery.'

The diet, allied to the fact that Davies has overcome an aversion to the practice ground, has produced this season an immeasurably better player. 'It's made a hell of a difference,' Davies said. 'I have never played so consistently well and I feel much more confident. I used to hide behind scoreboards and wear an old slipover that I felt made me look thinner.' People would ask her if she was hot. 'No,' Davies would lie.

The slipover, and much else besides in her wardrobe, has been thrown out. Like Davies herself, the women's tour is trying to shed its old image. Forget the feminist argument. Andrea Doyle, the executive director, wants to sell glamour and the European team, who tomorrow begin a three-day match against the United States for the Solheim Cup at the Dalmahoy Golf and Country Club here, has a number of clothes horses, Davies included.

She is sponsored by the Japanese company, Maruman. 'They sent me a load of new clothes and they look superb,' Davies said. 'I feel as if I look the part and that has helped me to play a lot better.' She has won three times in Europe and lost two play-offs in America. Prior to the British Open last week her stroke average was 69.87. It has earned her more than pounds 140,000 this year.

Some of it has gone on gold and diamonds, ostentatiously displayed on both hands but most of it is invested in Ottershaw where she has knocked two houses into one. Her next door neighbours are her mother and her stepfather. Davies has also bought a motor home. 'It's handy for tournaments and holidays. It's also a good tax write-off. I don't hoard my money. I probably spend too much but I started with nothing and if I end up with nothing I've lost nothing.' She is, by nature and practice, a gambler. A friend of the bookmakers, she owns a white greyhound called Dessie. 'You know, just like Desert Orchid.'

When Davies stands on the tee nobody makes jokes about women drivers. She utilises her weight and power to smash the ball unladylike distances and there has been no reduction in length from the lighter version. If her record this year makes her the female equivalent of Nick Faldo, the comparison ends there. Faldo will not cross the road without his coach; Davies has never been coached, relying on instinct and touch. Her short game is as good as her long one.

Davies, who won the British Open in 1986 and the US Open the following year, is different from Faldo in another respect. She enjoys team competition. 'It will mean more to me,' she said, 'to win the Solheim Cup than to win a major. It would do so much more for our game.' A great deal this weekend will rest on her broad shoulders. 'I want to win,' Davies said, 'and I want to be the centre of attraction.' A big difference this. On the scoreboard instead of behind it.

(Photographs omitted)