International amateur golf champion Paula Grant is teeing up for a career in optometry after graduating from Ulster University. The 21-year-old from Lisburn secured a coveted Ulster University golf scholarship that helped develop her sporting talent while supporting her university education.
"I grew up playing golf with my dad and brother and first represented Ireland at the age of 15," she said. "After that, my golfing career really hit off and I got my first senior Irish cap at 17. Soon after that played in the World Amateur Golfers Championship in Turkey.
"I love playing golf, but I also knew how important it was for my future to have a solid education. I chose to study optometry because I always enjoyed science and maths at school and liked the idea of interacting with lots of different people every day.
"Once I started looking at universities, Ulster University jumped out at me as the perfect choice. Its optometry course in Coleraine has a great reputation for its graduates securing pre-registration employment, and not only that, it is one of only 11 universities from across the UK and Ireland to be included within the R&A Golf Scholarship Award programme.
"I was lucky enough to be awarded a golf scholarship with Ulster University. Over my three years of study, I gained access to specialist sports performance services, including golf biomechanics sessions with leading University experts.
"I also got free membership of Royal Portrush Golf Club, which was a real treat.
"Now and again I would miss university for golf tournaments, but my lecturers were really supportive and worked with me to make sure I kept on top of my degree. When I was completing my dissertation, I actually found golf a great way to de-stress and clear my head.
"I have recently been selected to compete for Ireland in the European Team Championships in Denmark this month, and will play the European Individual Championships after that.
"I love golf and I may consider turning professional in the future, but for now I am really excited for the next chapter in my life.
"In August, I will start my pre-registration year as a student Optometrist in Specsavers, but I have no doubt I will never be too far from a golf course."