Rising Lothians star Hannah Darling aims to join Catriona Matthew on a Solheim Cup stage on home soil this year before going on to try to become the North Berwick women’s successor as Scottish No. 1.
Darling’s top target this year is trying to secure a spot on the European team for the PING Junior Solheim Cup, which takes place in the build up to the main event at Gleneagles in September.
The Broomieknowe teenager had already received a boost through a new fund being set up by the 2019 Solheim Cup Golf Development Programme and Scottish Golf to help Scottish hopefuls in their bid to make the line up in Perthshire.
And she is now more determined than ever to be flying the Saltire in the biennial match against the United States after spending some time with Matthew, who will be captaining Europe in the main spectacle.
To mark today being International Women’s Day, the pair spent some time together at North Berwick, Matthew’s home club, with the 2009 British Women’s Open champion passing on some advice as she caddied for Darling for a few holes.
“Catriona offered me some wise words and it was a great experience,” admitted Darling, winner of the Scottish Girls’ Championship for the last two years. “As the Solheim Cup captain this year, it was great just to get a chance to spend some time with her and hear what she had to say.”
Darling was one of six young female golfers to launch their own #Project19 initiative when they first learned of Scotland’s bid to host the Solheim Cup and Junior Solheim Cup this year. Comprising a WhatsApp group, their ambition was to motivate each other to qualify to represent Europe in their home country. The group then attended the 2017 events in Des Moines, Iowa, with Darling having emerged as the leading Scottish contender for the junior match this time around.
“It is coming quite fast. It is quite scary,” she admitted. “Hopefully I can get into the team, but it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t. It’s an opportunity that might happen if I can play some good golf over the next few months.
“I’ve played in the Portuguese and Spanish Women’s Championship in recent weeks and have the Scottish Girls Open and then the Helen Holm in April, after which I will be taking a month off for my exams.
“I’ve got National 5s this year, sitting seven subjects. The first one is on April 30, so I have started to get my head down already. It’s my first year of exams so it has been quite stressful. But I feel I have done quite well balancing everything so far. My golf is in a good place at the moment while I’ve also had some good prelim results. I’ve had to sacrifice a few things due to it being so busy, but it’s been worthwhile.”
The inaugural Under-16 Girls’ open champion appears to be leaning to the US when it comes to the next stage in her education, aiming to have a Plan B to fall back on if she doesn’t follow Matthew’s footsteps into the paid ranks.
“I remember meeting her for the first time and it made me work harder on my game,” said Darling. “I could see what was possible in my career and, in the nicest way possible, it would be great to go above and beyond what Catriona has achieved.
“That first meeting was at Archerfield at the Ladies Scottish Open in 2014. It was a clinic and I remember getting my picture taken with her. I was buzzing to meet her. From there, it has been a case of working hard to try and make progress in my own game.”