NAPLES, FLORIDA | “It's definitely nice for confidence.”
Those were the first words from Celine Boutier after a 7-under 65 in a steady rain at the Tiburon Golf Club on Thursday. The round put the 28-year-old Frenchwoman a shot out of the lead in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship chasing the final group on Friday of tournament leader Jeongeun Lee6 and Jennifer Kupcho, who also shot 65. Those who don’t follow the game closely might find this hard to believe, but of those three, the only two-time LPGA Tour winner is Boutier, who won the 2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia and the ShopRite Classic in New Jersey last month.
Even more of a surprise to the drive-by fan is the fact that ShopRite was Boutier’s second victory in as many starts. She flew to New Jersey from France where she had just won her country’s women’s open, the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.
The reason this might come as a surprise is because none of Boutier’s stats stand out. She entered this week in Naples at No. 18 in the Race to the CME Globe, 20th in scoring average and No. 21 on the Money List. Those are respectable numbers but nothing that would make people sit up straight and take notice. She does make a lot of birdies: 276 for the year, which ranks eighth on the LPGA Tour. And she’s made nine eagles, sixth best on Tour.
But it is Boutier’s quiet demeanor that has kept her from being noticed. In the past, she has come across as painfully shy, almost drawing herself into an awkward shell when approached for comment. Her friends know her as funny and engaging. Until recently, fans never saw it.
That is changing. As Boutier blooms, the public is seeing a brilliant player who has a mature grasp on her game and the world around her. “I just think in golf, you have to reset every week, whether it's a good week or a bad week,” she said on Thursday of the final week of the season. “Every week is different. I've been doing that ever since I've been playing on tour. This week is no different. You just have to start over and see what happens. I just feel like I don't want to think too far ahead of myself right now.”
She isn’t ready to be an open book. When asked what she liked to do away from the golf course and if she had any hobbies she said, “Nothing specifically that I would actually be able to share. But I feel like just hanging out with my friends and not really doing much. I actually also love the game of golf in general, not just competing, so I actually just play (golf) with my friends sometimes.”
Those who followed Boutier as an amateur knew that she was one of the most overlooked and underappreciated amateurs in the game. She played in the shadow of Leona Maguire at Duke. No one would have predicted that Boutier would have two LPGA Tour wins before Maguire had one. But Boutier’s ball-striking and deft putting touch have been evident for years. She burst into the consciousness of the casual observer at the 2019 Solheim Cup where she went undefeated in the European victory. She also has three LET wins to go with her two LPGA Tour victories. Nothing would mean more to her than capping the season with a $1.5 million winner’s check.
“Yeah, it has been a great season so far,” she said. “I feel like I've achieved a lot of goals that I set for myself this year, but I'm also trying not to think about it too much because then I will relax too much and don’t work very hard. But I’m trying to finish the season strong so I can relax for the offseason and get ready again for next year.”
While winning is never easy at any level, Boutier now stands on the first tee with the confidence of a champion, something that might have been lacking early in her career.
“I think (it might be a little easier now) just because you know that you've done it before and you can do it,” she said of the psychology of winning. “I think it gives you more confidence when you're playing for the win in those important moments at the end.
“But I also feel like my personality in general is not super confident, so I feel like I always have some doubt in my mind that I have to prove myself again and again. I feel like definitely those wins will help me if I'm in that position again.”