A talented young English golfer continued her development in the sport by enjoying a dream opportunity in Tuesday’s AIG Women’s Open Pro-Am at Carnoustie.
Maggie Whitehead, who reached the semi-finals of the R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship at Fulford last week, is rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in golf at the famous venue.
Whitehead, 15, was invited by Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, to compete in the Pro-Am alongside world No. 14 Jessica Korda and broadcaster Eilidh Barbour.
Slumbers has continued to follow Whitehead’s progress after she wrote to him over three years ago explaining her love for golf, how much she enjoyed playing competitively and updating him on the reduction in her handicap from nine to five.
Blossoming amateur career
The Durham girl has since made further big strides in her amateur career, recently winning the English Girls’ Under-16s, triumphing in the Girls’ Home Internationals with England and lowering her handicap to +4.
The initial letters struck a chord with Martin, who invited Maggie and her parents along to The Open at Carnoustie in 2018.
“I had no idea those letters would lead to weeks like this, absolutely not,” said Whitehead, a member at Close House near Newcastle. “I met Martin in 2018 and we got on quite well. My dad then rang me up recently and said Martin had invited me to play in the AIG Women’s Open Pro-Am! It was a massive shock, as it came out of nowhere.
“My dad said that Martin had asked if he could play with me, so that was a really special phone call to receive from my dad, to know that people are recognising me.
“It will be a great experience being around the professionals at Carnoustie and I’m so looking forward to it.”
Tom Watson interview
Whitehead also met and interviewed the five-time Open champion Tom Watson in the media centre at Carnoustie in 2018 to further fuel her passion for the sport.
Whitehead added, “It’s something that is still nice for me to look back on. We’ve still got the pictures up on the wall in the dining room at home. It was just an incredible experience. It was probably one of the best weeks of my life, meeting Tom Watson. He is such a big name. It was a great, great week.
“I watched The Open in 2018 at Carnoustie, but I’ve never actually played the course. It is a really nice venue and I’m looking forward to being back.”
Whitehead competed in the inaugural R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur Championship at Fulford in 2018 and 2019, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Under-12 section in 2018, and continues to progress.
After another fine week at the Yorkshire venue last week, she lost out at the semi-final stage to Ireland’s Beth Coulter.
“I trained a lot during the winter to try and work on my game, even in the lockdown periods,” she said. “I think the hard work in those times has started to pay off.
“I’m still over the moon about winning the English Girls’ Under-16s. It was a great win and I’m really happy about it. I’ve had quite a solid season and I’m just trying to keep it going.”