Celine Boutier took the winding drive through the estate of 13th Beach Golf Links and was pleasantly surprised this week. A brand, spanking new photo of her adorns the driveway, along with all the other previous winners of the ISPS Handa Vic Open, a kind of avenue of champions.
It was a nice reminder of her first-ever LPGA Tour victory here 12 months ago, and for good measure, she liked what she saw. “Yeah, it's very strange, but I think they picked a good picture, so I'm pretty excited about it,” said the 26-year-old Frenchwoman.
“Obviously I don't want to look at it too much because you can't get too far ahead of yourself. It was a great week last year, but I think every week is different, so I just try to take it as another week, another tournament and try to start from scratch.’’
For Boutier, who won by two shots last year, it was a breakthrough that was overdue. It set her on the path to her best-ever season on tour, including four wins from as many matches in her first appearance for Europe at the Solheim Cup, an event that she lists as the highlight of her 2019.
This season already she has logged top 10s at consecutive tournaments leading into this week’s Vic Open, and at Barwon Heads, she feels comfortable. This time, of course, she comes as defending champion and even noticed that the volunteers were recognising her.
“Yes, always so nice to go back to where you have good memories, and for me, Barwon Heads and the Vic Open is a special event and special week for me personally because it's my first win and it's very exciting and special to come back.”
Last year’s win, she said, had helped to her improve. “I think after my win was definitely something that helped make mentally quite a bit and helped me settling in and kind of gain a little bit more confidence. That's I think the main difference that I have from last year. I still feel like I can prove myself more and play better, but I don't feel like I need to prove it to anyone else, just for me.”
The relaxed atmosphere of the Vic Open, without the boundary ropes, meets her approval. “I think all the spectators here are very respectful of the players,” she said. “It's a huge part of why the event is successful even without like ropes and it's still safe and fun for us to play, because they are golfers and they respect us as players.’’
The wind is blowing this week at 13th Beach and Boutier will not mind. As a low ball-hitter, it is a piece of land that suits her game. “I think growing up in Europe we always had a couple of events every year in Ireland and England and Scotland or whatever, so we always practised there for these tournaments.
“I think it's part of the fun. It's one of the unique things about the course and about here is like it always gets windy. I think that's also the way that the course is designed. I think for me it's a positive thing. “