Qualification fund benefits young Scots golfers

Young female golfers in Scotland with aspirations of playing in the PING Junior Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in September can now benefit from a new joint fund established by The 2019 Solheim Cup Golf Development Programme and Scottish Golf.

With The Solheim Cup set to return to Scotland from 9-15 September, qualifying for the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup at Gleneagles is now underway, as last weekend’s Portuguese International Ladies’ Amateur Championship marked the first in a series of qualifying events for the biennial match.

The £9,000 pot has been established to provide financial assistance to those eligible to compete at various qualifying tournaments in the run up to this year’s event which will act as a curtain-raiser to The 2019 Solheim Cup as Catriona Matthew’s European team bid to regain the Cup from the USA.

Scotland’s Hannah Darling became the first beneficiary of the fund by competing in Portugal and impressed with a top-20 finish to start her bid to compete as part of Team Europe at Gleneagles.

A member at Broomieknowe Golf Club in Midlothian, 15-year-old Darling is one of the nation’s rising stars, having climbed the amateur ranks in recent years. She enjoyed an excellent season in 2018, winning the inaugural R&A Girls’ U16 Open Championship and successfully defending her Scottish Girls’ Amateur Championship title she won as a 14-year old in 2017. Now in the year of The Solheim Cup, Darling has her eyes firmly set on making the European Team for this year’s PING Junior Solheim Cup, saying: “I was fortunate enough to be part of the Project19 group who got to experience The 2017 Solheim Cup from inside the ropes and this opportunity confirmed my ambition of one day competing in the event myself. It has been an exciting couple of years since then and I am hugely grateful to Scottish Golf for their continued support. This new fund will help me compete across Europe as I look to qualify for Team Europe at the PING Junior Solheim Cup. To be part of such a big event on home soil would be an incredible experience and I am working hard to ensure that I can achieve this goal.”

Darling was one of six young female golfers to have self-started their own #Project19 initiative when they first learned of Scotland’s bid to host The 2019 Solheim Cup and PING Junior Solheim Cup. Comprising a WhatsApp group, the girl’s ambition was to motivate each other to qualify to represent Team Europe at the event in their home country.

The group included Rachel Foster (Prestwick St Nicholas), Eilidh Henderson (Kirkcaldy), Evanna Hynd (Balbirnie Park), Carmen Griffiths (Aboyne) and Anna McKay (Crail Golfing Society) who alongside Darling were supported to attend The 2017 Solheim Cup in Des Moines, Iowa where they mingled with both US and European teams and even participated in the official handover ceremony to Scotland following close of play.

Andrew McKinlay, CEO at Scottish Golf welcomed today’s announcement and said: “With Gleneagles hosting the PING Junior Solheim Cup in 2019, we are keen to ensure that we have Scottish representation in the European team and today’s announcement marks our commitment to supporting the next cohort of female golfers that would benefit massively from an opportunity like this.”

We are delighted to be working closely with our partners at The 2019 Solheim Cup Golf Development Group ahead of this year’s event and thank them for their support with our fund aimed at supporting the country’s top female junior golfers in qualifying for the PING Junior Solheim Cup.”

Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said: “This collaboration between the Solheim Cup Golf Development Group and Scottish Golf is a wonderful demonstration of the opportunity the Solheim Cup is giving us to support Scottish junior players and create a lasting legacy from the event. I wish Hannah and all our juniors vying for a qualifying position, the very best of luck in the coming months.”

The European team in the PING Junior Solheim Cup is captained by former Solheim Cup captain Mickey Walker and will see 12 of the best young female players in Europe take on their American counterparts. To be eligible, players must be aged 12-18 years old, having reached their 18thbirthday as of January 1st, 2019. The team will be comprised of six qualifiers from the PING Junior Solheim Cup rankings as well as a further six captain’s picks.

The qualification journey will take place across 10 events in six more countries across Europe, before culminating at the Girls’ British Open Championship at Montrose Links, Scotland, from 13th-17thAugust.

For more information visit www.solheimcup2019.com