Lauren Watson just turned 17 at the start of Ryder Cup week, and what a way to celebrate – being inside the ropes at Gleneagles as one of the Scottish Golf Development Centre carry boarders.
The Aberdeen teenager has been playing golf for more than half her life and is a member of Deeside Golf Club. She said: “It was just what happened in the family. We were always going to Deeside on a Saturday and it seemed like a good thing to do.
“My first competition was when I was eight, when I got my first set of clubs for Christmas. I met other girls through the Paul Lawrie Foundation, as they ran a Stableford for under 15s and a flag competition.”
Lauren went on to the Scottish Golf Development Centre programme which she found helpful, not least because it kept her motivated during the winter.
“Up here we don’t get much daylight on the course so it has lots of benefits and gives you the motivation to still practice when the weather’s bad – I’ve been practicing when the snow is coming in from the bay!
“There was definitely a difference between not practicing and practicing when it came to the new season – you don’t have as much of a break and your handicap comes down much quicker. And it’s good fun – getting to meet people. You compete against them but also against yourself.”
Lauren has been in Scottish Golf Academy for two years and this year won the Ladies Championship her club. The sixth-year Robert Gordon’s College student would like to do sports engineering at university and eventually design golf clubs and balls. She had originally applied to volunteer at the Ryder Cup but was too young, so looked into what she could do at the Junior Ryder Cup instead, just before she was chosen to carry match boards at Gleneagles. She chose her father Douglas to go with her.
“My dad has been my motivation for my golf career since I was young. He’s always helped with coaching, giving me tips even when I’m really frustrated and he’s always talked me down. He caddied at the Ladies Championship this year and helped me win it.”
Douglas has been a member of Deeside for over 30 years, currently playing off seven which he is quick to say, is not as good as Lauren! His wife Lesley also plays, as does his younger daughter, 14 year-old Kirsten, who took part in the Development Centre programme last year.
He said: “My father and grandfather were members of the club and introduced me to the sport at the age of seven. In those days you could not become a member until you were 12. I was Captain between 2010 and 2012. Deeside is ingrained in me!
“Lesley and I took Lauren to the club – we both played separately, one played while the other babysat, then we swapped over. I think there was some curiosity about what mum and dad were doing. We would give the girls a club or two to give them a shot and both have been members from around the age of six.”
The opportunity to carry board during Ryder Cup week came as a huge surprise to Douglas. He said:
“I didn’t know about it until we got the email saying we’d been successful. We sat at the kitchen table one night and asked her if she’d seen her email, and eventually she went and looked and came back with a big grin! I had seen the email earlier on and been like the cat that got the cream in the office all day!
“I have never been to a Ryder Cup. I’ve been to The Open but never anything as big as this and I’m really looking forward to it. So much so, that I was at a corporate function when the European Tour were offering hospitality tickets and I persuaded my company to take some. I bought four tickets for the family for the Sunday a year ago - so we were very keen to be there!”
As was Lauren, who has previously experienced being inside the ropes. She said:
“I caddied in the pro-am at the Scottish Open in Ian Poulter’s group and being so close to him, it was amazing to watch.
“I met Rory there – he’s my favourite golfer and favourite celebrity – and I was overwhelmed. Because I was behind the scenes, I watched him go behind the grandstand in a sneaky way out, and ran as fast as I could after him. His manager and bodyguard were with him so I shouted “Rory, can you sign my book”, and he said yes if I walked at a fast pace beside him!
“Most of my school friends are excited for me as I’m excited, but they don’t understand the scale of it, so I equate it to football for some of the guys. My friends from golf are excited and jealous that I’ll be so close to the players.”