American dream

Durham’s best female golfers are heading off to America this summer to compete on the college golf circuit, Dean Bailey meets them before they jet off across the pond

Elite women’s golf in our region is in fantastic shape right now.

Cumbria is home to one of the best female amateurs in the country, Caitlin Whitehead; Northumberland has just fielded one of its youngest ever teams at County Match Week; and players from across our region are competing in Europe’s biggest events and lifting some of amateur golf’s biggest trophies – as you’ll find in the news pages of each of our editions so far this summer.

In Durham, the county team says goodbye to seven of its brightest stars this month as they head off to the best schools in the US to begin or continue their golf scholarships.

We met up with six of them at Wynyard ahead of their departures while the seventh – Laura Alexander – had already jetted off to begin her fourth and final year in Georgia. Here’s what they had to say…

Jessica Hall
Age: 19
Handicap: +3
Home club: Bishop Auckland
College: California State University, Fresno
Year: Freshman (first)
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there and getting going. It’s going to be fantastic to practise with a team and to be able to commit so much time to improving my golf with so many good players. I’ve played some really good golf this summer so I’m hoping to get selected for the team and then go out and compete with some of the best amateurs in the world. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Shannon O’Dwyer
Age: 21
Handicap: +2
Home club:
College: The University of Texas at El Paso
Year: Junior (third)
“I’ve loved college golf so far. I’ve been in Texas for a year having transferred from Florida and we’ve already played so many incredible tournaments in Texas, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas. The standard is so high – you have to play so well just to make it into our team – but if you make it into the team the experiences are amazing. We practise six hours a day to be able to compete with some of the best schools in the country, which is hard work, but I love it and can’t wait to get back into it.”

Zara Alexander
Age: 18
Handicap: 11
Home club: Wynyard
College: Thomas University, Georgia
Year: Freshman (first)
“My sister Laura has been at Thomas for three years so I’m looking forward to spending a year there with her as she finishes her degree. She’s given me loads of advice and we’ll be spending a lot of time together. I’m looking forward to being part of a big team and getting to play with so many good golfers every day. There are so many opportunities at college, I can’t wait to get out there and experience it all.”

Briony Bayles
Age: 18
Handicap: Scratch
Home club: Bishop Auckland & Wynyard
College: Kansas State University
Year: Freshman (first)
“I can’t wait to get out to Kansas and finally get going. I’m excited to start practising with the golf team and get into my classes – it will be nice to have loads to do having had a pretty chilled time this summer since finishing my A levels. I’ve met all the girls on the golf team already and they seem super dedicated, which will be a great atmosphere to focus on improving my golf and playing in tournaments.”

Kitana Hollins
Age: 19
Handicap: Scratch
Home club: Wynyard
College: Murray State College, Oklahoma
Year: Sophomore (second)
“My first year in the US was amazing, it has definitely changed my life. The courses we play week-in week-out are a totally different level. We also get to play with incredible golfers from all over the world in every event, which we wouldn’t get to do at home. I’d wanted to go to the US from the age of 13 and so far it has been better than I’d ever imagined. I can’t wait to get back and catch up with all my friends, and get back into playing team golf.”

Amy Sutheran
Age: 18
Handicap: 5
Home club: Wynyard & Hartlepool
College: Colorado State University-Pueblo
Year: Freshman (first)
“I’m really looking forward to experiencing loads of new things out in Colorado. Tournament golf in the US looks so incredible so it will be really good to play some big events out there. I’m looking forward to the school work too – there are loads of different things you can do, plus the lifestyle away from the golf team is really interesting. It’s going to be busy but I’m really excited to get out there.”