She was the happiest warrior on the battlefield last week, the one player who never lost her smile, remaining sunny even when the East Lothian weather turned gray. Throughout the week at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, other players looked like someone had just kicked their dog. Even Stacy Lewis, who captured her first win in 14 months in a four-way playoff, barely cracked a smile until the final putt dropped. It was work – links golf always is – and the players at Renaissance Club all looked like they had their noses to the grindstone.
Except for Cheyenne Knight, the 23-year-old Texan who was one of those four in the playoff. She looked like the happiest person east of Glasgow all weekend. Not even the occasional errant tee shot into the high fescue or odd lie in one of the club’s riveted pot bunkers could wipe the broad, bright smile from Knight’s face.
That was intentional, an adjustment she made after a mediocre restart to her 2020 season.
“My attitude in Ohio (at the Drive On Championship and Marathon Classic) was not good at all,” the former Alabama All-American told LPGA.com on Sunday night after driving from North Berwick to Glasgow. “I felt really stressed out and was way too hard on myself. Then, late last week, I just told myself that I wanted to play my sport for a long time. If I kept getting down on myself and being stressed it wouldn’t be fun.”
Finding joy in her work and being satisfied with her efforts are more important to Knight than how many wins she racks up. The destination isn’t nearly as sweet if the journey is miserable.
“My No.1 goal is to do my best,” she said. “That’s all you can do. If the worst thing that happens is you hit a bad golf shot, everything will be okay.”
Meet Knight a time or two and you’d believe that she never has a bad day. Her infectious never-met-a-stranger personality creates new fans for her and for the women’s game every time she visits a new city.
Last week was no exception. Knight’s trip to Renaissance Club last year for the Ladies Scottish was her first links experience since her father brought her to Scotland when Cheyenne was 13 years old.
“The first course we played (back then) was Turnberry,” Knight said of that initial trip. “And the first time experiencing (links golf) was really kind of shocking. Rather than having a perfect lie every time, flat, not windy, things you experience in America, it was totally different. When I first came over at age 13, I did not like links golf. I thought it was unfair.
“But by the end of that trip, I remember we played Western Gailes and it was super windy and tough and I played well, I enjoyed it. Then we played Kings Barns and I played well there and really liked it.
“I didn’t come back (to the UK until last year). But my senior year of high school I played Bandon Dunes in the USGA Fourball Championship. I played great there, so that’s when I realized that this was a type of golf that I could embrace.”
Accepting what you cannot control and embracing the challenges thrown your way have been a big part of Knight’s life. It has been well-chronicled that she lost her older brother, Brandon Burgett, when Brandon’s truck was struck head-on by a drunk driver. Cheyenne was only 12 years old at the time. The love of friends and family and her deep Christian faith helped her through the pain and grief. A dozen years later, those values still keep her moored.
Monday morning after coming up short in the Ladies Scottish playoff when Lewis made a 15-foot birdie on the first extra hole, Knight tweeted, “I have looked up to Stacy Lewis for as long as I can remember. Playing head to head yesterday was nothing short of amazing. Congrats on the win Stacy! First win since becoming a mom – so inspirational.”
No self-pity, no self-absorption, no begrudging praise. That attitude is what attracts people to Cheyenne Knight. And it is why, as she tees off this week in the AIG Women’s Open, the first major of the 2020 LPGA season, she is worth a follow.
“I love links golf and the challenge of it,” Knight said. “You’re going to get some weird bounces and bad lies but that’s the fun of it. That’s what makes it so special. Last week (at Renaissance) I had a mentality where I told myself I had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
“Links golf can be intimidating. You’re standing over a shot and the wind is blowing and you have these pot bunkers that you have to take on and you don’t know what kinds of bounces you’re going to get and the targets are really small. But I just played fearlessly. I could only do my best on each shot and if I was 100% committed to each shot but the ball ended up in a bad spot, I just accepted it.
“You have to play smart on links courses. When I hit a bad shot out of position and wound up in the fescue, I knew I was making bogey. You have to accept it and not try to do anything dumb.
“But I want it to be difficult. I want the wind to blow. I feel confident going into the Women’s Open. I know Royal Troon is a different animal. But mentally, I look forward to the test.”