THE sound of bagpipes filled the Ayrshire air. It was not the only thing to traverse Dundonald Links yesterday during a blustery and soggy third round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open.

Newspapers, bits of rubbish, the odd unsuspecting seagull but most significantly an abundance of golf balls were picked up and carried around the course by the unrelenting winds of up to 35mph that swept along the coast all day long.

It was a test of character as much as ability for those looking to advance their prospects of landing the £170,000 top prize on offer for this week’s winner. Simply keeping their balance long enough to make even a tiddler of a putt was one of the more demanding tests, while the arrival of a heavy and sustained downpour late in the afternoon only served to exacerbate the gloom. So much for summer.

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For those foreign players who dip in only occasionally to the vagaries of links golf, this was quite the refresher course. Only nine of the 72-woman weekend field managed a total under par, a sign of how tough it was out there. Best on the day was the 68 carded by Korea’s Mi Hyankg Lee - a stellar round in the circumstances - with her countrywomen Chella Choi and Sei Young Kim just behind with a 69.

That left Kim holding a share of the lead with the Australian Karrie Webb, the pair somehow splitting three birdies on the final two holes when the wind seemed to be at its wildest and the rain at its heaviest. The duo sit on six-under par for the tournament, two clear of the American Cristie Kerr who was one-over for the day.

The trio played together in the last group yesterday and will do so again today. The weather surely can’t possibly be this awful again, although the forecast is not promising.

“That back nine was definitely a struggle once it started raining,” said Webb. “Especially on 18. It literally was just coming sideways. We all enjoyed each other's company today. Our golf inspired each other, and hopefully it's the same tomorrow.”

“I've never played before like in this weather,” added Kim. “It was just tough standing, holding the umbrella. So I’m very happy with three-under.”

First to brave the conditions in the opening 8am group had been Sally Watson, one of just three Scots to have made the cut. Four-and-a-half hours later she returned having survived the swirling winds to post a round of 77, taking her to 10-over for the tournament.

The 26 year-old - Edinburgh-born, St Andrews-based but with an American twang to her accent, a legacy of years spent living in Florida and California - will now hope to do enough in her final round to book a place at next week’s RICOH Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns.

“It was really tough out there today,” she confirmed. “I think the wind maybe got a little softer towards the back nine but when we were walking up the fourth hole I could hardly hear my dad speaking and he was standing right next to me. It’s been tough the last few days so it’s just about trying to grind as much possible.

“Hopefully if I have a nice final round I might be able to earn one of the three spots available for the field for the British Open. That’s the main target for my final round. If I can shoot level par – or close to it – then I’d be really happy with that.”

The weather made it a slog even for those who have seen and done it all many times before. Catriona Matthew, that great stalwart of Scottish golf, admitted as much after posting a 76 to take her to eight-over par, although an eagle on the 18th at least meant she finished with a flourish.

“It keeps getting windier every day - it was definitely stronger than yesterday,” said the Solheim Cup vice-captain, who still hopes to also make a playing appearance at next month’s duel against the Americans in Iowa.

“The ball almost moved on one hole. It's a battle, not much fun. It's difficult to score. You're exhausted by the end but finishing with an eagle perks you up and gives me a boost for tomorrow. Conditions will be different over there [for the Solheim Cup] and I just need to keep playing away and see what happens. Experience counts a little.”

The third Scot involved over the weekend is Carly Booth. The 25 year-old from Comrie was one of those unfortunate to get caught in the heavy rain as she played the back nine, perhaps a factor in her taking a six on the par-three 15th on her way to a 75 and a total of four-over for her first three rounds.

“The weather was pretty brutal, to be honest,” she said. “I played pretty good golf today apart from my four-putt for a triple bogey on 15. That was just stupid. Maybe I just rushed it a little bit and then my head went a little bit. My putter needs a slap and a good talking to.

“I just need to forget about it now. I’ll kick myself for a little bit but tomorrow is another day. It’s a battle out there. I want to finish the best I can this week and I’d be happy with a top-10 finish.”