WHEN it comes to assessing her record in the Scottish Women’s Amateur Championship down the years, Ruth Hunter doesn't tip toe through the tulips. “It’s been rubbish,” she said with a self-deprecating chortle.

We’ll just move swiftly along shall we? Despite her fairly modest results in this cherished old championship, which dates back to 1903 and gets underway today at Trump International on the outskirts of Aberdeen, Hunter’s competitive gusto remains undiminished. 

The 51-year-old from Lanark is such a mainstay of the domestic scene, she could just about appear in the perennials aisle at a Dobbies Garden Centre.

Hunter’s longevity was rewarded a couple of weeks ago when she picked up her first piece of silverware as a golfing golden oldie in the Scottish Veteran Ladies’ West Division Championship at Renfrew.

“It was my first big win in a couple of decades,” said the former Lanarkshire County champion. Once she hit her half century, Hunter became a young ‘un again in a game where the advancing years have never been a barrier to success.

“It does give you a new lease of life,” added Hunter of her transition into senior service. “When you’re not competing in the top flight of Scottish golf anymore, there’s not so much to play in as you start to get older. There can be a bit of lull in your competitive outings but when you hit 50 you get new opportunities.

“The veteran events have big fields and they are well supported. I’ve played golf for 40 years and you catch up with your old peers too. The camaraderie is a big thing. It’s probably the main thing to be honest. But the competitive fires still burn.”

Those fires will be stoked by yet another appearance in the national championship this week. In a field headlined by up-and-coming 20-somethings like Chloe Goadby, the defending champion, and last weekend’s St Rule Trophy winner, Jennifer Saxton, Hunter is relishing the prospect of pitting her wits against the young talent in the Scottish game.

“There’s not a great amount of expectation to be honest but you still don’t want to be here just to make up the numbers,” she said ahead of today’s 36-hole strokeplay phase which will determine the qualifiers for the matchplay stages of the contest. 

“When you are playing against some of the best young players in the country it certainly helps to focus the mind. And keeping the mind sharp is one of the challenges as you get older.”

There a few star attractions missing this week, notably Louise Duncan, who is competing in the US Women’s Open, and Hannah Darling, the highest Scot on the world amateur rankings at No 14.

“There is some real quality emerging in Scotland right now and it would be great if one of them could break through as a professional,” said Hunter, a former Scotland under-18s cap who still holds the long-standing women’s course record of seven-under at Lanark Golf Club.

Back in the day, of course, one of Hunter’s competitive peers was a very special talent, namely Catriona Matthew. “You could see even then that she was just better than everyone else,” she said of Matthew, who won three Scottish Women’s Amateur crowns before going on to become a major champion and Solheim Cup legend in a decorated professional career. 

“We all admired her, even at that young age, and different generations of golfers still look up to her. Her achievements have been phenomenal. She was and still is a fantastic player. It will be hard to top someone like Catriona.”

Hunter, herself, never entertained the prospect of professional golf. Matthew’s ability as a teenager was an eye-opening benchmark. “I probably knew even then that I wouldn’t be a professional as I could see how big the gap was between myself and Catriona,” Hunter reflected. “You have to be realistic.”

Employed as full-time librarian, Hunter has remained a career amateur. The competition and the companionship in this grand old game continues to stir the senses. “I’ve never lost the love for golf and have always enjoyed what amateur golf has given me,” said Hunter. “A golfing life is a good life.”

Many will agree with that sentiment.