Scotland’s First Minister has given three young golfers the chance of a lifetime this week at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane.
Nicola Sturgeon has asked the trio to play in the Scottish Government team in Wednesday’s pro-am which precedes the tournament – and the youngsters will team up with US Open winner and Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell.
The lucky juniors are 11 year-old Anna McKay from Crail, Joseph Cookson from Haddington and Jack McDonald from Galashiels, who are both 13 years old. All three have been coached through ClubGolf and the Scottish Golf Development Centres programme which is for players aged 11 to 20.
ClubGolf, the national junior development programme, was asked by the First Minister to choose the players to represent the Scottish Government, with the First Minister revealing their star partner to the trio.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Our innovative ClubGolf programme has introduced the game to more than 350,000 youngsters across Scotland, and Anna, Joseph and Jack are fantastic examples of what the programme set out to achieve – youngsters who picked up a club and who have continued to be involved in the sport from then on.
“We are always looking to introduce the next generation of champions to a game which originated in Scotland and the ClubGolf programme is key to this. Anna, Joseph and Jack have a fantastic opportunity to learn from a Major champion in Graeme McDowell and I hope they benefit from this unique experience. I wish them all the best in the Pro-Am and with their future in golf.”
Eleven year-old Anna was runner up in her age group at the US Kids World Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina, in 2012, the world’s largest event for children aged 12 and under. Since then, she has won the Elie Girls Open Under12 four times, and was the Fife County Girls Junior Scratch Champion in 2014.
Local boy Joseph is no stranger to Gullane, being a member of the golf club. He won a scholarship to the golf academy at Loretto School in Musselburgh this year, before which he won the Simmers Cup for the best gross score by an under13 player in the UK-wide Junior Championships organised by the school last September.
Jack is a member of four clubs in the Scottish Borders so he can play with as many juniors his own age as possible and has been boys champion at St Boswells for the past two years. Last Saturday, he became the youngest player to win the men’s C-class club championship at Galashiels Golf Club; his father won the B-class championship the same day, making them the first father and son to win the titles together.
Graeme McDowell said:
“It should be a lot of fun playing with Anna, Joseph and Jack in the Pro-Am, they can obviously play to a very decent standard and I believe Joseph is a member at Gullane, so I’ll be picking his brain on how to play the course. ClubGolf is a great initiative, the number of youngsters it has already encouraged to take up the game is tremendous, and I’m more than happy to do my bit to help grow the game even more.”
ClubGolf Manager, Jackie Davidson, said:
“We would like to thank the First Minister for giving our young golfers this amazing opportunity to play in the Scottish Open pro-am.
“ClubGolf is not just about introducing nine-year olds to the sport in primary schools. We are now also working on getting more young people involved in secondary school, and supporting them through year-round coaching in our Scottish Golf Development centre programme from the age of 11, and through club and school sport competition.
“Golf is unique in allowing all ages and abilities to play and compete together, and the young players chosen to represent the Scottish Government have undoubted ability. The support shown by their families throughout their development is also key in how well Anna, Joseph and Jack have progressed, and importantly, how much they enjoy golf.”
In addition to playing with Graeme McDowell at Gullane, the youngsters and their families were invited by The First Minister to a reception to mark the Scottish Government and Aberdeen Asset Management’s support for golf in Scotland at Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday evening.
The aim of ClubGolf is to create a development pathway from entry level through to the highest levels of achievement, enabling increased access to golf, higher participation levels, improved standards of performance, and sustained growth in the future.