Shannon McWilliam is determined to seize a final chance to impress the Curtis Cup selectors on home turf this week.
The Scot has long been mooted as a candidate for a place in the Great Britain and Ireland side, with the selection for the team to face the USA at Quaker Ridge, New York in June fast approaching. Next Wednesday, 26 April, to be precise.
Strong performances in recent months in Morocco, Portugal and South Africa have done her no harm, but whether she has done enough the 18-year-old can only cross her fingers. With the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship the final counting event to come at Troon (20 – 22 April), McWilliam knows there would never be a better time to go one better than her second-place finish in the event last year to impress the onlookers.
“I’m trying not to think about it, really,” said the Aboyne player. “I missed the cut in France recently which was a counting event, so I feel I need to do well in the Helen Holm to have a chance of being selected.
“My goal in golf has always been to play for Great Britain and Ireland. I had the honour of playing for the Junior GB&I Team in the Vagliano Trophy at Malone in Ireland 2015 and I loved every minute of it.
“We’ve had quite a lot of snow and bad weather up here in the north so it has been tough to practice, but you just have to work with it. Having a good performance at Troon will hopefully help me. The selectors are obviously going to be at the Helen Holm, so I’ve just got to try my best, it’s all I can do. If I don’t get picked then you get over it and keep going.”
A strong international field will gather this week, from as far afield as Singapore, with the event contested over 54 holes of strokeplay. Two rounds take place over the Portland Course before the top 66 & ties contest the final round over the Old Course.
McWillam has positive vibes given her display last year to finish behind Linn Grant from Sweden over the famous links. Grant is back to defend her title and Shannon said: “I was second last year and it’s a place I like. It’s the first women’s event of the year in Scotland and it’s one of my favourites as well, getting to play Royal Troon on the last day. It’s nice.”
US-based Scot Connie Jaffrey is another Curtis Cup contender, but she is absent at Troon. In-form Eilidh Briggs, the Kilmacolm player who won the recent Whittingham Trophy on English soil, could be one to watch, along with local lady Hazel MacGarvie, who has been shining for the University of Stirling.
The field size this week has been increased to keep pace with the championship’s growing popularity and will boast the largest field ever of 120.
McWilliam, who has been working hard with her coach Andrew Locke at the Paul Lawrie Centre to improve her long game, sits just outside the top 200 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. She has long-term plans and the recent news that Augusta National will host a women’s amateur event from 2019 certainly crossed her mind.
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship will be a 54-hole event featuring 72 players. Rounds one and two are to be hosted at the Champions Retreat club in Augusta before the top-30 proceed to Augusta National. The final round will take place on the Saturday preceding the Masters.
“My world ranking is 220 and my plan is to stay amateur for another two to three years,” added McWilliam. “I don’t feel ready for professional golf right now. I’m still quite young at 18 and I have a part-time job in my home town to bring some money in. So I’m a full-time amateur at present and will take it from there.
“Augusta could be on my radar if I can get up the world rankings. Playing at Augusta would be like achieving a life goal. Even just like watching the Masters would be incredible, so playing at Augusta you would never forget that. It’s on my bucket list.”