Iona Stephen: “I want to play in the 2024 AIG Women’s Open at St Andrews”

When the AIG Women’s Open arrives at St Andrews in 2024, Iona Stephen is hoping to have swapped her microphone for her golf clubs and be teeing it up alongside the world’s best.

As the new year hurtles towards us, we’ll all be setting golf goals for 2024. Mine? I want to play in the AIG Women’s Open at St Andrews! 

I know it’s a long shot, but what are we doing here if we can’t dream and push ourselves?

I’m not planning on returning to full-time golf anytime soon, I love my career as a broadcaster, but the Women’s Open was the reason I started playing golf and it’s always been my dream to one day play in it.  Perhaps I’ll never get the chance, but I’m certainly willing to give it a shot.

As I said, I love my day job, it allows me to work in the sport I’m passionate about. The idea of stepping back inside the ropes as a player makes me very nervous. But ever since 2011, watching the stars at the Women’s Open at Carnoustie, it has been my dream to play in the event.

It’ll only be the third time the Major has been played at St Andrews and having been a student in the town, it feels apt to try and qualify this time.

I still have stage 4 osteoarthritis in my wrist, which ended my playing career, but I’ve developed
a new technique to play with it and so far it’s been feeling strong.

My last competitive event came seven or eight years ago on the Santander Tour in Spain, where
I finished in the top 10 in a strong field. I couldn’t even play bunker shots that week because the impact caused so much pain. Surgery followed and my career was over.

I felt angry at golf and so disappointed that I had to find a new approach, so I stopped keeping a score. It wasn’t until I filmed a video with Rick Shiels last year that I even marked a card.

Now my wrist feels the best it has in years. That doesn’t mean that I’m planning to try and play
on tour every week, or even that I’d be capable of doing so. The girls on the LET and LPGA are outstanding players who are constantly working on their craft to be at the levels required.

But what I love about The Open is just that – it’s open. It encourages the underdog, dares us to dream and has these fantastic links with the amateur game. I’d like to think I could be that underdog.

My golf is in a good place and my swing has improved – being able to send swing videos to Butch Harmon and lean on some incredible coaches has certainly proved beneficial!

And my job has helped. I’ll often be hitting shots in the studio during the breaks and getting advice, plus I get to watch the world’s best players up close and see their swings and course management. That has helped me save shots.

It’s going to take focus, work, and dedication to earn a spot – and some bravery to put myself in the ring. I’ll have to spend every moment I can practising and I’ll have to go through qualifying, which is an intimidating prospect. But you have to step out of your comfort zone to learn and grow.

If Iona is successful in the first round of Open Qualifying, the following round would be played at Crail.

Pre-qualifying normally takes place at The Buckinghamshire Golf Club – a course I’ve always found very difficult. But if I can find a way to get through then the next stage takes place at Crail, which is my dad’s home course and somewhere I’m incredibly familiar with. I’m not going to be as good as some of the other players, so those advantages will be required.

Nothing will be able to fully prepare me for the mental challenge. The famous quote “Golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears,” couldn’t be more apt.

The challenge now is to get competitively sharp while doing the day job. I know I can hit shots that are good enough to score well but I’ll need to do that consistently, sharpen up the short game, and be able to hole nervy four-footers.

But I’m hoping a combination of hard work and the adage ‘beware the injured golfer’ will mean I’m on the other side of the microphone come August in the Auld Grey Toon.

Read more from Iona Stephen, including her views on the ball rollback, slow play and the women’s golf merger.

About the author

Iona Stephen is a golf broadcaster and writes for Today's Golfer.

Iona Stephen – Broadcaster and Today’s Golfer contributor

A former professional golfer, who has played on the Ladies European Tour, Iona is a highly-respected golf broadcaster.

She joined Today’s Golfer as a regular contributor in 2023 and offers insight into the professional game from her life working on the world’s biggest tours.

The Scotswoman is as comfortable covering the game from the commentary booth as she is broadcasting in front of the camera and from the course, where she is regularly seen interviewing the world’s best players during their rounds.

Alongside her television work, Stephen also has her own YouTube channel – On The Road With Iona.

Follow Iona on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and TikTok and find out more at

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