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Kids these days.
Always on their phones, aren’t they? Texting, tweeting, Snapchatting, taking selfies, plotting and spurring each other on to become the best golfers in the world.
Allow us to introduce the six Scottish girls who, together, make up #Project19, a unique partnership inspired by the Solheim Cup’s return to Scotland in 2019.
Crail’s Anna McKay, Carmen Griffiths of Aboyne and Balbirnie Park’s Evanna Hynd are joined in the group by Eilidh Henderson of Kirkcaldy, Turnberry’s Rachel Foster and Broomieknowe ace Hannah Darling.
The talented bunch, all members of the Scottish Golf Performance Academy, were so energised by the decision to stage ladies’ golf’s biggest event at Gleneagles in two years’ time that they created their own WhatsApp group which they use to motivate one another in their collective bid to play in the Ping Junior Solheim Cup, being held at Gleneagles in the days leading up to the main event.
News of their ambition spread quickly and has resulted in them joining the official ‘Team Scotland’ delegation in Iowa this week.
Suffice to say, they’re loving the experience.
As well as taking part in official Scotland functions, they were also on the first tee on the opening morning of the match to cheer Europe on.
They’re even staying in the same hotel in downtown Des Moines as both teams, where they bumped into a onesie-wearing Michelle Wie in the lobby earlier in the week.
“It’s been amazing,” Hannah told bunkered.co.uk. “It’s the best experience I’ve ever had. It’s just class.”
That’s a view echoed by the rest of the girls, who have been chaperoned on the trip by Scottish Golf regional performance coach Ian Muir and performance administrator Gillian Paton.
“They’re having an absolute blast,” said Muir, who encouraged the girls to make the 2019 Junior Solheim match their goal. “It has blown us all away, to be honest. This is my third Solheim Cup and sitting in the opening ceremony the other day I couldn’t help but think back to 1992 at Dalmahoy. There was really nothing there. No infrastructure, nothing like that. But look at it now. Look what it’s become.
“It’s inspired me so I can’t even begin to properly imagine what it’s done for the girls. What I do know is how hard they’ll work between now and 2019 to make that team.”
Muir, who inherited his passion for junior golf from his late mother, a former Perth & Kinross junior convenor, coached Sally Watson to the European Junior Solheim side in 2007 and 2009. So, he knows what it takes. After their experiences this week, he’s sure his #Project19 team does, too.
“They arrived in time for the end of the Junior Solheim Cup on Wednesday and that, as much as anything, has shown them what they need to do and the standard they need to get to if they want to make that team,” he added.
That’s as maybe. But it was the atmosphere on the first tee on Friday morning that has left the biggest immediate impression on them. Up and about bright and early to take their seats in the stand at 6.15am, you get the impression that memories of that experience will dominate their WhatsApp conversations for a long time to come.
“We’re all about to lose our voices but it’s been well worth it,” added Hannah. “We were all shouting and cheering and some of the European players gave us a wave which was really cool. It’s totally surpassed all my expectations. You expect it to be good but you don’t expect it to be this good.”
Evanna, the current Fife County Girls’ champion, added that her friends back home have loved hearing about her adventures in Des Moines.
“They all think it’s really cool,” she said. “None of them play golf so I tried to explain what it’s all about and they agreed it sounded like a lot of fun.
“I hope it makes them think about playing golf. Most of my really close friends don’t really like sport or P.E., but I’ll try to rope a few of them in.
“It’s just been amazing to be part of the atmosphere. You see it on the TV and you hear the cheers when somebody holes a putt but you’ve no idea just how loud it is until you’re there. It’s a lot louder in real life!
She added: “For me, one of the best things was hearing that 12 of the players this week played in the Ping Junior Solheim Cup as well, so if I can make the 2019 team, I know I’ll be on the right track.”
David Connor, the Golf PR Manager at VisitScotland, heard about the girls’ ambitions earlier this year and said that it was “a no brainer” to bring them out to Des Moines as part of the official Scottish camp.
“It’s a real ambition for us to have representation on the European team at the Junior Solheim Cup in 2019,” he added. “We’ve seen from these girls that they’ve got the talent and ambition to make it so hopefully bringing them out here will help them to see what level they need to get to. I think it’s really whetted their appetite.
“Their enthusiasm has been infectious. It’s rubbed off on all us and it’s been great having them here with us. We’re obviously here this week trying to build the profile of the 2019 match and to encourage Americans to travel over to Scotland for it. Having the girls with us has helped invigorate all of us.
“Seeing the scale of the event and just how good these top players are can only help to inspire them. We’ve all grown up with our own sporting heroes and golfing heroes, so for the girls to come out and see theirs up close is just brilliant.”
It’s going to be exciting to see the progress they make.
For Muir, the week has been invaluable and he is proud of how the girls have matured even in the short time they have been in the US.
“They all enjoy being in each other’s company but they’re also extremely competitive and they’re pushing each other on,” he said. “They’re learning how they can fulfill their potential and become better players by being dependent on one another. It’s even simple things like, this week, learning to compromise. You know, one of them wants to go one place for dinner but somebody else wants something different. They’re figuring out how to deal with those kinds of things and how to look out for one another.
“They’re a great bunch and it’s going to be exciting to see the progress they make.”
Isn’t that the truth.
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