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Over the last 26 years I’ve taught thousands and thousands of people – all ages, all shapes and sizes and all skill levels from beginner to professional.  Each category has its challenges and its rewards but I have to admit it is exhilarating to see young, blossoming talent – and it’s exciting to see that talent result in victory at the highest level, as it did last Sunday for Cheshire girl Bronte Law.

Bronte won the Pure Silk Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia, by two shots from a trio of international talent, Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden, Brooke Henderson of Canada and Nasa Hataoka of Japan.  That success was all the sweeter coming as it did just three weeks after a play-off loss in California, which was only possible because Bronte made up a 10-shot deficit with a thundering final round of 65.  Those two performances alone netted her prize money of almost $340,000 and have catapulted her some 20 places up the world rankings to 24th.

Playing the last at Royal Lytham in the 2018 Women’s British Open. [Photo courtesy of Tristan Jones, LET.]

So, could I foresee this success when Bronte pitched up to the Cheshire County squad training with me a decade or so ago?  Honestly?  Absolutely not.  I’m not sure I ever believe a coach who says they always knew a particular kid was going to make it.  Yes, we can look at the talent and the technical skill of the young person but it takes years and years and years of inching forward, improving in every department and a relentless commitment to hard work and positivity to be able to compete, and ultimately win, on the hardest tour in the world.  How can you possibly know if the young 13 or 14 year old in front of you will have that sort of resolve?  Or even opportunity.

I remember one exercise I did with the squad in Bronte’s day.  I asked the girls to hit a shot with a club they didn’t think was suited to the job.  For example, it may have been trying to get out of a greenside bunker with an 8-iron or hitting to a target that was a 7-iron distance away with a 4 or 5-iron.  Bronte wasn’t impressed.  She couldn’t understand why you would bother with any of that nonsense when you had a perfectly good club for the task.  She was feisty and a little rebellious and she hated not being able to do what I’d asked.  Her immediate reaction was to be dismissive of it – it was pointless.  However, at the next session it was only Bronte, out of them all, who had gone away, explored, learned and advanced emotionally and technically.  That has stuck with me as I’ve followed her career.

And what a career it’s turning out to be.  With constant and unwavering family support she hoovered up a couple of English amateur titles as well as a record seven wins playing college golf in the States for UCLA.  This resulted in her winning the coveted ANNIKA award for the best collegiate golfer in 2016, the same year she won a maximum five points out of five in her third Curtis Cup appearance, the first player from GB&I to do so.  At the end of that year Bronte procured playing rights on the LPGA and launched her professional career in 2017.  At the end of 2018 she blitzed the field at the Ladies’ European Tour qualifying school setting records right, left and centre.  Her winning five round total of 26 under par was a new record, as was the run of nine consecutive birdies in a third round of 62.

Bronte wins the LET qualifying school in record-breaking style. [Photo courtesy of Tristan Jones, LET.]

Now she has her first LPGA win and her immediate reaction after holing the winning putt was to walk to the side of the green, on her own, away from the applauding galleries.  She just took a moment to let it sink in before turning to receive the plaudits from her caddy and fellow players.  Her winner’s interview was measured and thoughtful.

“This is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid,” she said.  There was a humility there, too, as she added, “I have a long way to go in terms of where I want to be.”

Bronte – and the moment she had always dreamed of:  the winning putt has been safely holed. [Photo courtesy of Bronte’s Twitter account.]

Her goals and expectations of herself are very high and she may well tick another achievement off this year’s list with a Solheim Cup place on Catriona Matthew’s team at Gleneagles in September.  Certainly Catriona has been watching.

“Bronte has been in my thoughts for well over a year and has been doing really well on the LPGA recently with the second place and then the win at Kingsmill. She had a great amateur career in match play, winning all her games at the Curtis Cup [in 2016].  She obviously can’t qualify as she won’t have played her eight events, so she’ll need a pick, but yes, she’s very much in my thoughts. She would be a great addition to the team – she’s feisty and great in match play which is what you want.”

So no, I don’t think you can tell at 13 or 14 years of age if a young player has what it takes to fulfill those childhood dreams.  It’s not the shots they hit, nor the swing that’s important.  It’s all the stuff you can’t see and has yet to mature that really counts.  The heart, the resolve, the tenacity, the space between the ears, the love of a game that will batter you down and the ability to keep getting up off the canvas – those are the things that ultimately matter.  Those are the qualities that Bronte possesses.

The sky’s the limit – and I don’t think it’ll be a dull ride.

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