Lunn still mixing it with the best

One of the truly great stories of Australian golf may emerge at Royal Pines next month, should former British Open champion Karen Lunn figure in the finish.

While it might not exactly be expected, with a world-class field contesting the $500,000 ANZ RACV Ladies Masters at Royal Pines Resort, success would surprise no-one who knows her.

Lunn still mixing it with the best Lunn still mixing it with the best

That’s because courage can carry you a long way in this game and Lunn has shown she has spades of it, beating a string of injuries that would defeat lesser players.

So much so that Lunn came through to score a win on the Ladies European Tour in 2010 and retains an amazing enthusiasm for the game and wouldn’t put her body through the torment if she didn’t feel she could still win against the myriad of young guns waiting on the first tee every time she hit the course.

Despite what she calls a disappointing end to her 2010 season, Lunn still had one of her best years yet on the LET, capped off by her amazing success in the Portugal Ladies Open and three more top 10s during the season.

And that doesn’t come easily when you have been on tour for almost 25 years and are double the age of some of the rookies looking to make a name for themselves.

“Yes, it takes a bit of maintenance to keep the body on the road these days,” grins Lunn. “You need a good physio, that’s for sure – and luckily I’ve got one.”

“I have been having a bit of a break on the Gold Coast, where I now live, and saw the physio today to see what I had to do to stay in shape and what gym program I needed to be ready for when the Australian season kicks off.”

“He actually suggested ‘rest’ was the best thing for me at the moment.”

So rest she will and look for a rejuvenated Lunn to make her mark on the Australian Tour this summer, where she has already planned to play all their major events.

“Don’t get me wrong, I want to play some of the pro-ams too but it really is time some of the younger player stepped up and took the time to play in these,” she said.

“I’ve got my feet up now and I’m just chilling for a couple of weeks. I’ll sit down and think about where I am playing and what events I’ll be playing in a bit later on.”

Ambitious plans for a woman that must have wondered if she would ever play golf again when she was in so much pain she couldn’t even lift a putter – let alone a driver – a few years ago.

After winning the British Open in 1993, it looked as if the world was Lunn’s oyster.

But a back injury curtailed her progress and she admits once you get a bad back, well you just have to learn to live with it.

That was nothing compared to the painful tennis elbow injury that came along after that, again forcing her to take time away from the game.

In fact it took the former Cowra girl out of the game for more than six months. Indeed she could barely even pick up a club, let along swing one.

That also enabled her to take a long hard look at the game she loves so much – and that only served to make her determined to savor every moment she would have on a golf course after that.

“It made me ask myself, do I want to keep playing,” she says. “I had to put up with the pain for a while when I did come back.

“Thank goodness for cortisone, because the older you get, the harder it becomes. Now I tell myself to enjoy every shot I play – because you never know how long you’ve got in this game.

“For a while there I couldn’t even hold on to a putter – let alone swing a club – it was just too painful.”

Hard indeed for someone that was not unlike Irish star Padraig Harrington – she loved to practice and some days spent as much as four hours on the range, tinkering with her game.

“These days I make my practice a lot more quality and a lot less quantity,” she says.

“You get to a stage where everything you do as to count and you definitely practice a lot smarter than you do when you are younger. I guess that’s what happens when you have no choice.”

While Lunn acknowledges that along with the likes of Laura Davies, she is one of the ‘veterans’ on the tour these days, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love being there.

“And I really wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t think I could be competitive and yes, maybe even win now and then,” she says.

“I’d like to think I have at least another couple of years out there. Maybe three or four, I don’t really know. I’m 45 in March and I’ll definitely look at how I’m playing and won’t persevere if I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere.

“Last year [2010] I actually played some of my best golf, even if the end of the year wasn’t as good as I had hoped for. There were things like the Nations Cup which were a real highlight. Now I would like to play better golf in some of the bigger events.”

“I won a British Open and I guess there’s no reason why I can’t do it again.”

Not a bad line from someone who has spent almost 25 years on tour.

And she reaches the back nine at Royal Pines and finds herself in a head-to-head battle with one of the so-called ‘young guns’? Well, I know who’ll I’ll be backing.