Grace Crawford: North Berwick teenage rising star on her 'knack' of winning
It sounded a bit silly hearing myself asking Grace Crawford to “talk me through the early years”. She’s just 15, after all, so is really just starting out in life, But, from a golf perspective, the North Berwick girl is no ordinary teenager.
She’s been racking up title triumphs since the age of eight, meaning that people in East Lothian have been aware of her talent for some time and, therefore, probably weren’t totally surprised by her two most recent successes.
The first came in two weeks ago Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open, with Crawford, helped by a closing four-under-par 68 over Royal Troon, becoming the first home player to claim the coveted crown in 20 years.
“I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet, but it’s definitely getting there,” Crawford explained. “It was one of the events that was on my bucket list, but, even six months ago, I wouldn’t have thought I could win it at this stage in my career.”
The second came in an impressive wire-to-wire victory in the R&A Girls Under-16 Amateur Championship at Enville Golf Club in the Midlands. She is the second Scot to win the Girls Under-16 Amateur after Broomieknowe’s Hannah Darling claimed victory in the inaugural edition in 2018 at Fulford.
The new rising star in the Scottish game was knee-high to a grasshopper when she first picked up a golf club, tagging along with her sister Kate and brother Glen for a hit on North Berwick Golf Club’s Wee Course.
“I’ve been playing golf since I was two or three and fell in love with the sport straight away,” confessed Crawford. “I’ve always loved competing and trying to win as well. As you get older, I suppose it becomes more difficult and will these victories keep coming so it’s nice to see that is still the case.
“I can’t remember my exact first win, but playing in the U.S. Kids Golf events was the start of me thinking that I had a knack for this and was enjoying it, so I wanted to carry it on and here we are now. It’s not easy to win, so it’s been a good run so far and hopefully this first big win can be the first of many.”
North Berwick, of course, has history when it comes to producing female golfing talent. Catriona Matthew trod the same path as Crawford, winning the Helen Holm event as well in her amateur career before going on to become a major winner and Solheim Cup legend.
“She has definitely been a great role model and an inspiration, especially living very close to her,” said Crawford. “We’ve had some games and also some talks about my future and it’s been really helpful to know someone who’s been on the path that I want to go down and you don’t have to be from over on the other side of the world for it to happen.
“It is amazing to see how she goes about her business. It’s not up front like some other people, which I really like. It’s subtle and low key, but, at the same time, she is working hard behind the scenes.”
Crawford, who went to Loretto School in Musselburgh and retains her golfing roots as a proud Stephen Gallacher Foundation ambassador, reckons her game has blossomed over the past six months since becoming a member of the Albany Golf Academy in the Bahamas.
“Being at Albany and working with Jon Hearn, my coach, has brought my game on so much and I am just thankful for that,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard over the past six months and to see the improvements has been great.”
It’s a long way from home, but, having bumped into Crawford out on the Albany course as she watched the final round of the Hero World Challenge, a PGA Tour event hosted by Tiger Woods, in December, it was clear to see that she’d settled in quickly.
“I love it there,” she added. “I’ve got some great friends there and I think that helps. But my coach has been the main thing. First and foremost, he’s helped me with my game, but it’s outside of that as well.
“Through working with Jon, my iron play and accuracy with those clubs has definitely improved while I’ve also gained length, which is very helpful when you are playing courses against older people.”
Having followed in some notable footsteps by recording her Troon triumph, the young Scot is excited about her impending return to the Caribbean, where her plan is to see out a four-year stint before starting the next chapter in her life at college in the US.
“It’s unreal to think about having my name on that trophy alongside the likes of Catriona, Mel Reid, Leona Maguire and Pia Babnik,” she said. “Especially so when you see what they have all gone on to achieve and I’m hoping to do the exact same thing. Ever since I was tiny, I’ve always been set on becoming a professional golfer and it’s not shifting any time soon.”
Having her siblings to thank for “starting me on this journey”, Crawford reckons Kate and Glen, as well as her parents, Ali and Douglas, will ensure that she doesn’t get carried away by her most recent success and others that might follow.
“I’ve got a lot of people around me supporting me but also keeping me in check, which is what you need,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without my parents, especially my dad. He’s always around for the golf and I appreciate that.
"He caddied for me at Troon and gave me a few wise words. He plays a little bit at North Berwick and used to give me a run for my money, but that was a few years ago (laughing).”