• Alistair Tait

No Masterplan for Success

The woman was looking for a response to a question I couldn’t answer. She was lost. She wanted to know the best route for her 16-year-old daughter to travel to become a successful tour professional.

The $1 million question. It’s no doubt one many parents are/have contemplating/contemplated as their daughters compete in this week’s Women’s Amateur at Barassie Golf Club.

No one can provide the correct formula for helping a child realise potential. I certainly can’t. I can only make an educated guess from years watching amateur golf, but my carefully considered reason for sending an aspiring golfer down a certain path could lead to a minefield.

The mother in question genuinely wanted to know whether it was better to go down the American college route, take the help and coaching offered by the home golf unions here in the British Isles, or go it alone.

Unfortunately, there is no masterplan to turn a child into the next Georgia Hall, Charley Hull, Meghan MacLaren or Bronte Law. That magic formula to success is more hit and hope than anything tried and tested. It's step into the unknown for parent and child alike.

The above quartet have taken different paths towards successful pro careers. Hall and Hull bypassed college golf, while Law and MacLaren are doing quite well after four years in the collegiate circuit.

How many young talents have we pointed to in amateur golf and hung the future superstar label on their necks, or at least future Ladies European Tour winner? Hang a can’t miss sign on a teenager and there’s a good chance said teenager will miss big time.

I’ve always been an advocate of the college route for the very reason so many miss. Getting that degree can be something to fall back on when that dream of playing at the highest level becomes a dispiriting journey in search of a holy grail that doesn’t exist.

Yet, many is the youngster who’s travelled to the United States on a nice golf scholarship only to find they actually go backwards rather than forwards. Conversely, how many have turned down scholarships only to find themselves spending years grinding to make it on tour and never reach the promised land?

Too many.

Whoever wins this week’s Women’s Amateur will play in the AIG Women’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, the Evian Championship and play next year’s Augusta Women’s Amateur Championship and U.S. Women’s Open. She may never play in another big tournament after those starts. The list of past champions, like many men’s Amateur winners, is littered with players who never succeeded.

I feel for parents of daughters more than I do for those with talented sons. Men have historically had so many more opportunities to hone their games in preparation for the European Tour thanks to the plethora of minitours available to them. It’s a path women haven’t had, which is why we need a thriving women’s minitour circuit in these isles. Things are getting better thanks to the Rose Ladies Series and traditional men’s minitours opening up to women, but we’re still a long way from providing a level playing field for women.

I hope this week’s Women’s Amateur champion goes on to find the success past winners like Hall, Carlotta Ciganda and Anna Nordqvist have found. I hope the mother of that 16 year old manages to choose the right path to help her daughter succeed.

#JustSaying: “Miss Joyce Wethered, later Lady Heathcoat-Armory … used to wear skirts cut to the width of her stance. Nobody thought of it as being an artificial aid.” Sir Henry Cotton

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