Schoolgirl wins on European golf debut - at St Andrews
EVERY golfer wants to play on St Andrews’ Old Course, but a 14-year-old Moray schoolgirl went beyond her wildest dreams on her debut at the home of golf.
Isla McCulloch not only qualified for her first-ever international competition at the St Andrews junior ladies open, but she stormed to victory on the same greens graced by the game’s greats.
The former Speyside High pupil, who switched to Elgin Academy this year, is a member at her home Rothes Golf Club as well as Elgin, Moray and Cruden Bay - where she used to live.
From a golfing family, she first swung a club at the age of seven and received proper coaching at ten. Before long she was playingfor Northern Counties in girls’ events, winning on two occasions and representing them at the national championships.
“My dad encouraged me to enter for my first international competition,” Isla revealed. “He thought I was ready.”
So Isla, who now plays off an 18 handicap, entered the St Andrews competition and was one of the youngest of 89 golfers aged 23 and under taking part over 18 holes in the qualifying round over the Strathtyrum course. Sixteen scratch players made it through and Isla was fifth of eight handicap players to qualify for the open quaich quarter-finals.
Just happy to be through, Isla beat a young Slovakian then fought back to see off the challenge of an 18-year-old and make the final “I was so chuffed when I won as I knew I would get to play the final on the Old Course.”
Watched by her parents, sister and grandfather in the final, she was quickly two holes down to Gullane’s Lucy Hall who eagled the second hole. Back came Isla to level by the eighth and go three up on 13, before her opponent staged a revival.
Holing a ten footer on the 15th kept Isla a shot in front and when she rolled in another lengthy putt on 17, it was all over. “I was buzzing, so happy,” she said.
Even though Isla had won, both girls carried on so thy could play one of the most famous holes in golf, St Andrews’ iconic 18th. The new champ strode up the fairway on her phone, as her uncle Stewart - who won the boys’ competition on the same course in 1997 - called to say well done.
“We stopped for a photo on Swilken bridge and Lucy congratulated me.”
Isla’s next big day comes later this month when she plays alongside female players from the European Tour at Dunblane during the Solheim Cup week.