Maggie Whitehead has day to remember at AIG Women’s Open Pro-Am at Carnoustie

Close House and Ramside member Maggie Whitehead, star of the latest edition of Northern Golfer, enjoyed a dream opportunity at this week’s AIG Women’s Open Pro-Am at Carnoustie.

Maggie, who reached the semi-finals of the R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship at Fulford last week, rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in golf ahead of the major championship.

Maggie, 15, was invited by Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, to compete in the Pro-Am alongside world No. 14 Jessica Korda and broadcaster Eilidh Barbour.

Martin has continued to follow Maggie’s progress after she wrote to him over three years ago explaining her love for golf, how much she enjoyed playing competitively and updating him on the reduction in her handicap from nine to five.

She has since made further big strides in her amateur career, recently winning the English Girls’ Under 16s at Morecambe, triumphing in the Girls’ Home Internationals with England and lowering her handicap to plus-four.

The initial letters struck a chord with Martin, who invited Maggie and her parents along to The Open at Carnoustie in 2018.

“I had no idea those letters would lead to weeks like this, absolutely not,” said Maggie. “I met Martin in 2018 and we got on quite well. My dad then rang me up recently and said Martin had invited me to play in the AIG Women’s Open Pro-Am! It was a massive shock as it came out of nowhere.

“My dad said that Martin had asked if he could play with me, so that was a really special phone call to receive from my dad, to know that people are recognising me.”

Following their round, Martin told Golf Digest: “I have kept an eye on Maggie’s progress, which has been considerable. Today was the first time we’ve played together though. I wish I was 15-years-old again. I was very impressed. She has such a modern, powerful game. She strikes the ball really well and is fearless… unlike me over 60-yard shots. As I said to her on the way round, she needs to take her time before moving up through the grades. After she does her GCSE exams next year, senior golf is another level. She’ll find more girls who can play as well as she does. That’s the next test. And if she is good enough, she’ll keep moving on. But she has a great attitude. And she’s great fun.

“I’m glad Maggie wrote her letter, and I’m glad I replied as I did. The great thing about the R&A is that we have the ability to fulfil some dreams and let people have a chance. I couldn’t be more proud of Maggie. She has grabbed that chance with both hands.”

Maggie competed in the inaugural R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur Championship at Fulford in 2018 and 2019, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Under-12 section in 2018. After another fine week at the Yorkshire venue last week, she lost out at the semi-final stage to Ireland’s Beth Coulter.

“I trained a lot during the winter to try and work on my game, even in the lockdown periods,” she said. “I think the hard work in those times has started to pay off. I’m still over the moon about winning the English Girls’ Under-16s. It was a great win and I’m really happy about it. I’ve had quite a solid season and I’m just trying to keep it going.”