|From left: Victoria, Sébastien and Virginie Lagoutte-Clément.
Virginie Lagoutte-Clément from France is a rare talent on the Ladies European Tour, for not only is she one of Europe’s leading golfers, but she is also a full-time mother.
While there are many competitive moms on tour, such as Diana Luna, Minea Blomqvist, Carin Koch and Catriona Matthew, Virginie’s family is unique because they always travel together.
Her husband, Sébastien, who was a touring professional himself on the Alps Tour, acts as caddie, while they also bring along their three-year-old daughter, Victoria.
The approach seems to be working for 32-year-old Virginie, who has three top five finishes under her belt so far in 2011.
The triple LET winner turned professional at the end of 2003 and claimed her first title at the 2005 KLM Ladies Open in the Netherlands. She secured the Finnair Masters in Helsinki the following season, before taking a short break in 2008 for the arrival of her daughter in May.
Last year, in August 2010, she took her third title at the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open, which marked an important return to the upper echelons of the LET circuit.
This season, she posted a career low round of 63 at the UniCredit Ladies German Open by Audi and has on several occasions come close to another victory, finishing outright fourth at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open and tied for fourth in Portugal and Germany.
For Virginie, choosing between a career and a family was never an option.
“We want a child and we want to be together all the time. It’s not a question for us,” she says.
Her husband Sébastien, whom she married in December 2006, agrees: “I think a family is the best thing you can have. If we can manage for a few more years we will do that.”
The lifestyle isn’t easy: “We travel together for all tournaments but it’s not an easy organisation. We booked all the flights months ago and you need a babysitter. It’s not easy to find a babysitter in every country.”
Sometimes fellow competitors and friends, such as LET member Caroline Afonso, step in to help and Victoria can often be seen happily swinging her child-size golf club outside the ropes. However, according to Virginie, she prefers horses and tennis to golf. “She doesn’t like it when we say ‘Ssssh: you can’t do that!’”
Horse-riding is also Virginie’s first love. She is an accomplished equestrian and says: “When I stopped riding I was better in horse riding (than golf) but I chose golf. I don’t know why.
“I think I am better in riding but it’s a more difficult career than golf. People think that golf is expensive but horses are very, very expensive. It’s more difficult to travel with big horses.”
When it comes to family life, she will not push Victoria into a golf career, but will encourage her to choose her own profession.
For now, conditions are perfect, should Victoria choose to play the game seriously.
The family lives at Golf de la Valdaine in Montélimar, in the Drôme department of south-eastern France, where Virginie can practise all year round and where Victoria is something of a celebrity.
“We live in the middle of a golf course so it’s very nice,” Sébastien says. “Victoria is well known by everyone. It’s nice to be three minutes from the practise area or putting green.”
That doesn’t mean that they play 24/7. “When we arrive at home we have two days to wash the clothes, we have some papers to pay. We have two to three days of no golf,” Virginie explains.
It’s not all glamour, but for Virginie, travelling together is worth the effort: “If I play not very good on the course, we return to the hotel and we see her and smile. For me, it’s better.”
As for the player-caddie relationship, again, that’s a no-brainer.
“It’s like having children: not a question. It’s natural for us. We work well together and have a good performance,” says Sébastien.
So when will the honeymoon end? Possibly when Victoria is six and has to attend school full-time, but for now, she can stay on tour and Sébastien is happy to play the role of part-time teacher.
“She can go to school just when we are home and go to tournaments with us for the first two years. It’s good and after, we will see,” said Virginie.
It’s an unusual education, but one in which Victoria seems extremely happy and the arrangement also appears to be working well for Virginie.
With three top-five finishes so far this season, another victory seems imminent. Virginie just hopes that the next win will come before the 29th August qualifying deadline for The European Solheim Cup Team, to solidify her position on the team standings.
She currently lies fourth on the list, from which the top four players will qualify automatically. The remaining eight spots will be completed with four players from the Rolex World Rankings and four wild cards chosen by Captain Alison Nicholas.
The 12th edition of The Solheim Cup, which pits the top 12 European players against their American counterparts, will take place from 23-25th September, at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
Virginie, who hopes to make her debut on the team, is positioned behind Laura Davies, Melissa Reid and Christel Boeljon on the ranking, with six qualifying events to play at the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, Finnair Masters, Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale, Ricoh Women’s British Open, Ladies Irish Open supported by Fáilte Ireland and Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open presented by EventScotland.