Olympic Rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave provided the inspiration for University of Stirling BA Hons Sports Studies graduate Hannah McCook to excel…in Golf.
Hannah, from Nethy Bridge in the Scottish Highlands, collects her degree scroll from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport at the second of three Stirling summer ceremonies.
It is a special moment for the 21-year-old, whose golfing prowess whilst at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence has seen her selected to represent Great Britain at July’s World University Games and at a Ladies’ European Tour Event of her choosing.
But it isn’t just undulating greens and tricky tee shots which Hannah has to contend with on the Golf course, for just like Sir Steve, she is also a Type 1 Diabetic.
“I was diagnosed aged eight,” recalls Hannah. “I had flu-like symptoms for a few days then I was up being sick one night and diagnosed in hospital the next morning. At first, I literally didn’t have a clue what Diabetes was.
“I was into lots of sports and my mum and dad researched diabetic sports people and up popped Sir Steve. When they told me about him that was it for me – I wanted to keep playing sport and I’ve never stopped.
“The fact Sir Steve was able to compete at the level he has, despite having diabetes, was inspirational for me and now I want to show young people it doesn’t stop you from achieving your goals, whatever they may be.”
At first, Hannah required five injections a day, but she has recently switched to use an insulin pump, which enables her to better regulate her condition. It does, however, mean lugging an extra heavy bag around the course, packed with Bananas, Jaffa Cakes and Jelly Babies.
She added: “I have to keep an eye on things; I do finger prick blood tests whilst I’m playing and I have a device attached to the pump, which I press buttons on and type in what I’m eating.
“When I took the injections I didn’t keep proper tabs on what I was eating, but now I have a much better understanding and know things like a cereal bar contains 20g of carbohydrates.
“It doesn’t actually affect my game as after I hit a shot I switch off and only really think about the next shot when I get to it. If I’m eating in between then it helps me not to overthink a shot and focus on my blood sugar instead.”
Hannah is one of 13 graduates this summer who received support through the University’s International Sports Scholarship Programme, alongside the likes of fellow Scotland international golfer Jack McDonald and British 200m Butterfly Swimming Champion Cameron Brodie.
She was also supported through the prestigious national scholarships Winning Students, which assisted more than 80 students competing at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Victory at the R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament in St Andrews earned Hannah a chance to compete on the European Tour – most likely the Helsingborg Open in September.
“That’s where I want to be, on the Ladies’ European Tour. To be able to get a taste of it as an amateur will be great and hopefully next year I can turn professional and see how I go from there.
“Stirling has been great for me, especially the fact you can live on campus and have the Golf Centre and lecture theatre all within a few minutes’ walk. You are actively encouraged to train and compete in your sport and there aren’t many places where you can combine your sport with your degree to this level.”
Hannah’s conferment ceremony, recognised graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport and the Faculty of Arts & Humanities and included an honorary doctorate for playwright, scriptwriter and painter John Byrne, whose BBC Television Drama Tutti Frutti launched the careers of Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson.