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Sally Watson offers a glimmer of hope in a sadly quiet Scottish women's scene

'T was the night before Christmas and, if you're anything like me, the frantic period ahead of Santa's anticipated tumble down the lum is one of mixed emotions.

Sally Watson has qualified for the Ladies' European Tour six months after graduating from Stanford University in California
Sally Watson has qualified for the Ladies' European Tour six months after graduating from Stanford University in California

On one hand, there is the seasonal feel-good factor as you fling festive greetings around the parish like a muck spreader churning out dung. On the other, there is the lingering anxiety of knowing that you still have your shopping to do, followed by the crushing awkwardness of gingerly handing your nearest and dearest a hastily cobbled together yuletide collection consisting of a chamois leather, a bottle of coolant and a set of Allan keys from the late night petrol station. It's no wonder the mind is mangled on the pressing present issue.

As the world's leading golfers snuggle into their baronial piles and gaze lovingly at a twinkling tree decorated with baubles made out of Faberge eggs, some of us still have to earn our corn with the weekly chore that is the column. Mercifully, something always crops up, even in these grim depths of a December that has been as dour, sodden and turbulent as a night on a shipwreck.

Only last week, there were reasons to be cheerful on the Scottish women's front when Sally Watson passed the rigorous test of the Ladies' European Tour's qualifying school with flying colours.

Six months on from turning professional after graduating from California's Stanford University - her academic advisor there in international relations was Condoleeza Rice - the 22-year-old Edinburgh golfer finished joint-second in the five-round shoot-out in Morocco to fast track herself to the main circuit and give herself full playing rights for the 2014 campaign.

Straight away, the confident, bubbly Watson made her statement of intent. "I'll definitely be looking at Rookie of the Year at the end of 2014," she declared as she set a lofty target ahead of the new season. Ambitious? Certainly. Realistic? Who knows, but you have to admire Watson's positive, purposeful vision. There's a good chance that her 'can do' attitude' has been aided considerably by her time in the US.

On this side of the pond, there is still that element of a cautious, often pessimistic, outlook; the 'it's ok to do ok' approach, where self-confident declarations are greeted with the kind of narrow-eyed scepticism usually reserved for a fumbling old colonel trying to fathom out a Rubik's Cube.

Making the transition from the amateur game to the professional ranks is fraught with perils and pitfalls and, having earned her rights for the main European circuit, the hard work now begins for Watson. Apart from the consistent campaigning of the evergreen Catriona Matthew - the North Berwick stalwart lost out on a second major when she was beaten in a play-off for the LPGA Championship and holed the winning putt in the Solheim Cup - there has been little to get worked up about on the Scottish women's pro scene in 2013.

Take Matthew out of the European order of merit - she was 11th having played only four events - and you have to scroll down to 59th to find the next best Scot, Vikki Laing, who has been chipping away at the LET coal face since 2009. Keep working your way down and you'll see Carly Booth languishing at 106th. As the often-touted heiress to Matthew's throne, it seemed the Perthshire youngster was making significant strides in that direction when she won twice in Europe last year but, in an eagerly anticipated season that promised much, Booth made just three cuts in 16 events. At just 21, there's no need to press the panic button yet but in a evolving game you can ill-afford to stand still, let alone slither backwards.

The exploits of English teenager Charley Hull, who finished runner-up in her first five tour events and earned a Solheim Cup place just a year after playing for GB&I in the amateur Curtis Cup, have raised the bar to new levels in Europe for the new generation.

Hull, who finished sixth on the money list, claimed the LET's Rookie of the Year prize just ahead of her compatriot and Curtis Cup team-mate Holly Clyburn, who was seventh. Like Booth, Watson was being tipped for special things in her formative years and, with her amateur record, she has ticked many of the boxes required to make a decent fist of the pro game.

Two Curtis Cup appearances, a brace of Junior Solheim Cup call-ups, a Scottish and a British Girls' Championship title, various prizes on the US college circuit and qualification for three women's majors is a fairly impressive cv.

Of course, amateur accolades count for little in the cut-and-thrust of the paid game but, importantly, Watson has negotiated the first major hurdle and has given herself a solid platform upon which to ply her trade instead of feeding off the limited bits and pieces that many rookies find themselves nibbling on. She has dropped straight into the top tier, now we wait to see if she'll hit the ground running.

And on that note, I'm off for a bargain at the garage. Merry Christmas a'body.

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