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Ballygalget girl Beth driving towards professional dream with scratch handicap

On course: Multi-talented Beth Coulter works on her golf game
On course: Multi-talented Beth Coulter works on her golf game

By David Kelly

Whether it's catapulting a ball 300 yards off the tee or a sliotar into the back of the net, teenager Beth Coulter does it with ease and many believe her dream of making it to the women's professional golf tour looks a real possibility.

Having secured back-to-back All-Ireland camogie titles with Ballygalget GAC last year, she also landed the British Under-14 girls' singles golf title as well as finishing runner-up in the Under-16 event before going on to take her handicap down to scratch.

Just two weeks shy of her 15th birthday, this week the Ballygalget girl will be playing in Florida as part of one of the European teams competing in the Sir Nick Faldo-inspired Under-21 Major Champions Invitational - one of many international trips that has her friends a little green with envy.

"My friends get more excited than me when I get picked for big trips like Florida and also because I get a week off school and they don't," quipped the Our Lady and St Patrick's, Knock pupil.

"I was in school on a Tuesday morning when my dad rang me to tell me that I had been picked. The Major Champions Invitational committee had contacted the ILGU and they had recommended me. I was just going in to study religion when my dad rang and I didn't answer but when he rang a second time I thought there was something up and I'd better answer it.

"When he told me I had been picked to go to Florida I thought great and then asked if I was allowed to go because it meant I would be a week off school."

A member of Kirkistown Castle Golf Club, where she hit her longest drive of 312 yards, the 14-year-old only recently was given honorary life membership as well as a cheque for £6,000 following a fundraising event led by Lady Captain Tina McCutcheon.

"I wouldn't be the golfer I am without Kirkistown because of the effort and support they have put into me, sometimes I don't even realise it. They have done everything for me," added Beth, whose week is consumed by golf and camogie as well as handling the challenges of her first year at GCSE level in St Pat's.

"It's very tough managing my time. I've got camogie training Monday, Wednesday and Fridays when I can make it. On the way home from school I get off the bus at Ards and go to the driving range a couple of times a week, I've got my strength and conditioning on Thursday after school with Timmy Graham in Rathfriland as well as gym before school sometimes, my lesson with my coach Dougie Graham on Friday, and Saturday and Sunday I play golf or go to the Irish Golfing Ladies' Union High Performance panel at Carton House for training.

"Sometimes the two sports do clash and I have to make a choice between the two. So, if it's a big camogie game for my club I'll go to it. I love my camogie but long-term I want to do golf. I want to go to an American college and then onto the tour."

Dad Conall and mum Claire have naturally played a key role in making sure Beth has been able to balance the two sports as well as her studies, while she is quick to point to two local stars, four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and US college star Olivia Mehaffey - based at Arizona State University - as real inspirations.

"Rory is so exciting to watch because he hits it so long and Olivia is someone that I have seen play and practice and I feel that I can learn from her, particularly her work ethic," said Beth.

Despite her rapid rise from trying out golf as a nine-year-old in school to representing Ireland at the European Under-18 Championships and European Young Masters, the confident but level-headed teenager knows there is still much to work on.

"Playing at the European Masters and watching the Italian and Spanish girls who were 18 and had plus three and four handicaps, I could see what I had to work on. I didn't think there was much difference, I just need to put more hard work in - their short game was better so I need to work on that," she added.

The road may be long to the LPGA Tour but Beth's natural ball striking and grounded determination would seem to be a healthy recipe for success.

Belfast Telegraph

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