Talented golfers from the University of Stirling are preparing for a major month of competition against the USA.
Physical Education student Eilidh Briggs will travel to St Louis Country Club, Missouri as Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) bid to retain the Curtis Cup from 6-8 June.
Then at the end of the month Mathematics student Jack McDonald will join the best European student golfers for the Palmer Cup from 26-28 June at Walton Heath GC in Surrey.
At the same time, Sport and Marketing student Hannah McCook will be taking on not just the USA, but the best student players from across the globe at the World Universities Golf Championship in Crans-Montana, Switzerland from 23-27 June.
Briggs will become the third Stirling student to compete in the Curtis Cup, following in the footsteps of Shirley Huggan and LPGA star Catriona Matthew.
“That’s some nice footsteps to be following,” beamed Briggs, the 2013 Scottish Ladies Golf Order of Merit champion. “To have three players from Stirling, that’s a great statistic in itself. For me, everything I’ve achieved so far has been a stepping stone to get to this point and it’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I took up golf.
“The last couple of weeks has been about the excitement of being chosen, but now we’re going in the USA for a week to prepare. It’s good to get to know the rest of the team and get in some preparation.”
GB&I are the current Curtis Cup holders, having regained the prestigious prize at Nairn GC in 2012, ending a run of seven straight USA victories. Briggs, 21, is under no illusions as to the challenge they face.
She added: “We know the USA has a formidable home record and that the American team is very strong, but we also have a strong team and anything can happen in match play. There is six of us who have never played in it before so we are all in the same boat.
“I’m sure there will be some nerves on the first tee, but we start with the Foursomes and Fourballs so that’s all about team work and we’ll give it our best shot.”
Briggs warmed up by competing at the Scottish Ladies Amateur Championship, with McDonald as her caddy and the 2013 Scottish Men’s Order of Merit Champion could be forgiven for casting his mind back to a previous caddying role as he prepares for the Palmer Cup.
In 2008, a fresh-faced 14-year-old McDonald caddied for current PGA star Rickie Fowler at Glasgow GC as he represented the USA in the Palmer Cup - the transatlantic tournament which pits the cream of European student amateur golf against their American counterparts.
Europe prevailed that weekend, but McDonald, the 2013 Scottish Golf Order of Merit champion, still remembers the experience fondly and need look no further than Fowler for inspiration as to the competition’s springboard potential.
He said: “When I look back now and think about it, the majority of the players that year are now PGA Tour professionals. The USA team was amazing and the week before, four of them had competed at the US Open. Ricky [Fowler] was only 19. I remember it being a really good experience. He played well, but the European boys won it.
“I am really looking forward to competing and it’s right up there in terms of my achievements as you are representing Europe which is a new experience for me. We’ll be going to win the Cup back and it’s a great opportunity to test myself and take confidence from competing against top amateur golfers. It will be a great week and we are hoping it will be blowing a hooley as the Americans won’t have experienced that before.
“All the Stirling golfers are doing well which is great, not just in match play but in the stroke play events as well we all seem to be up there. The golf programme is excellent and we are seeing the results so obviously something is working.”
The scholarship golf programme at Stirling was established in 1981 and currently supports 16 players, led by Head Coach and former European Tour professional Dean Robertson. Eilidh, Hannah and Jack also benefit from funding support from national scholarships Winning Students.
First Minister Alex Salmond designated the University of Stirling as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence in 2008. Our mission is to deliver the best for Scottish sport through the powerful and inspirational combination of sport and education. We are at the heart of Scottish sport in a city of sport, preparing athletes to perform on the world stage, enabling students to develop their skill sets for excellent careers and producing innovative research to improve the health of the nation. Our sport-centred campus brings together the people shaping Scottish sport, creating a critical mass of sporting expertise and excellence.