Irish Ladies Open: Danielle, our new first lady of golf
The strength in depth of Northern Ireland golf has been reinforced by the emergence of girl power on the pro circuit.
Royal County Down’s top female golfer Danielle McVeigh has decided to turn professional and join the ranks of the Ladies European Tour, buoyed by the success of Major winners Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Danielle, however, credits her late father, who passed away last year, as her single most inspirational figure.
Joining the paid ranks is a bold move by six-footer Danielle, 24 next month. The financial rewards on offer are nowhere near in the same league as those which have made multi-millionaires of her male role models.
But it is a natural progression, both for Danielle and golf here as a new golden generation take the game to unprecedented heights.
Now Danielle is holding up a placard for the girls, including the talented Maguire twins from Fermanagh, and Holywood's Jessica Cardy, by flying the flag professionally for Northern Ireland, last borne highly at this level by Coleraine's Maureen Madill, now 53 and still a recognisable voice on BBC TV and radio golf commentary.
Danielle made her announcement as she prepares to take on a star studded field at the Ladies Irish Open which gets under way this Friday at Killeen Castle, County Meath.
Like Madill before her, the Kilkeel woman leaves behind a glittering amateur career in which she rose to prominence by winning amongst others the British Amateur Open Strokeplay in 2009 and the Helen Holm Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship last year.
Texas-schooled on a golf scholarship, Danielle said: “The time is right for me to progress and I have always wanted to turn pro. Golf is such a big part of my life and with my studies now complete I can focus entirely on my game. I am really excited about competing against some of the top women golfers in Europe on a regular basis.
“I look forward to improving my game to the standard where I will play in some of the best tournaments in the world. I have had so much support from everyone back home, especially my club, Royal County Down.
“Playing at such a world class course has paid dividends in my amateur career, with some of my biggest victories coming at links courses. The help and support I have received from the staff and members of the club has certainly contributed to my success.
“I have also had amazing support from the Irish Ladies Golf Union, who have supported me since I joined junior coaching at the age of 14. The support in sending me to tournaments has allowed me to test my game against the top amateurs in the world.
“Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke have shown Northern Ireland is full of golfing talent and I really hope I can make an impact on the ladies tour.
“My greatest inspiration has been my father, who passed away last year. He introduced me to the sport he loved when I was about 11, he always encouraged me and I know he would be really delighted that I am turning pro.”
Danielle also credited support received from the Jordanstown-based Sports Institute of Northern Ireland (SINI) which also works with other Ulster golfers, including Gareth Maybin, Paul Cutler and Michael Hoey, saying: “SINI has provided great support to me over the last two years; the professional help and advice from SINI has really helped me develop my approach to the game, by focusing on nutrition, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning as well as planning my performance.”
The Ladies Irish Open, supported by Fáilte Ireland, takes place from August 5-7 at Killeen Castle, Dunsany, Co Meath.