Remaining stateside helped. Celine Boutier is from the small town of Montrouge, France, a suburb of Paris and the kind of spot most people dream of visiting once in their lives, just not during a global pandemic. With all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Boutier chose to stay in her new place in Dallas, Texas during the 166-day LPGA Tour break. And while there aren’t any mega-yachts harbored in north Texas, there was plenty of golf to be played, even during the shutdowns. Boutier took advantage of it.
“I play out at Trinity Forest (in Dallas),” Boutier said after firing a one-under 71 on Saturday morning at the Inverness Club in Ohio to share the early second-round lead at 5-under in the Drive On Championship. Trinity Forest is no Inverness, but it is the U.S. base for So Yeon Ryu, Su Oh, and renowned instructor Cameron McCormick among others. It’s also a club that never shut down, even during the worst of the coronavirus.
Boutier had been playing great early in the year and wanted to get back out as badly as anyone. After a breakout performance at the 2019 Solheim Cup where, as a rookie, she went 4-0-0 and would have been the Woman of the Match were it not for Suzann Pettersen’s incredible finish, Boutier played all four tournaments in the early part of the year, posting three top-10 finishes with only one round over par.
“I feel like maybe (the Solheim Cup) brought me a little bit of confidence,” Boutier said.
“I feel like when you’re playing with that much pressure and on that (big a) stage (which can be) kind of frightening, you don't really know how you're going to handle it until you actually experience it.
“I was very satisfied with the way I handled myself and my emotions that week (in Scotland). It definitely gave me a little bit of confidence for sure.”
But a lot can happen in five days in golf. When you’re away for five months, nobody knows how you will come back.
That is where Boutier’s choice to stay stateside made a huge difference. She played a lot of recreational golf with fellow LPGA Tour player and two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman during the time off. And there were plenty of competitive outlets. In June she won the Women’s Texas Open, beating 10 LPGA Tour players including major champions Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lang as well as LPGA Tour winner Cheyenne Knight, who finished runner-up at three shots back.
Boutier also won in Paris…Texas, not France. She captured the Kathy Whitworth Paris Championship in a playoff over Catherine O’Donnell. It wasn’t LPGA Tour golf, but in her two June victories in Texas, Boutier posted scores of 68-64-67-69-69-69-66.
“It was definitely something that I was purposeful about, you know, playing within like a decent amount of range before the first tournament on the LPGA so that I wasn't too rusty before I started,” Boutier said. “I feel like I did handle it pretty well because it also kept me motivated to practice. You know when you don't have tournaments for three months, sometimes you don't even want to go to the course.
“So, the fact that I had a couple of tournaments -- I think I played three of them in the past two months -- so the fact that I had something to look forward to and some kind of competition going was kind of nice. Luckily, we had a tour that is nearby so I could drive.”
With France instituting travel restrictions, Boutier felt fortunate to be in Texas. “Lucky the weather was pretty nice, although a little bit hot,” she said. “But I was able to do a lot of outdoor stuff and other activities, other sports like tennis or biking and stuff like that.”
It was also nice to have time in one place to get ready for a Tour return.
“I feel like the first month or month and a half I kind of hated it because it's too much down time and I'm not really used to that,” she said. “But then the last couple weeks I kind of enjoyed it. The only thing is like when you want to have that long of a break you want stuff to be open. But everything was closed so you couldn't really do that much this year.”
You could work on your game, in Texas at least. Golf wasn’t closed. And, in the end, the decision to stay in Dallas during the break could put Boutier in a great spot for the rest of the 2020 season.