Catriona Matthew is being joined at this year’s Solheim Cup by the player who is shaping up to succeed her as Scottish No.1.
That, of course, will be no easy task, but Hannah Darling really does look as though she could go all the way to the top in women’s golf.
She recently became the Broomieknowe women’s champion at the age of 13 and continues to produce eye-catching performances.
Darling was in Midlothian’s title-winning team in the East Women’s Inter-County event at Stirling before making her presence felt on an even bigger stage over the past week.
She became the youngest-ever winner of the Scottish Girls Championship, where she held off a rousing comeback from Jillian Farrell in the final at Scotscraig to triumph.
Darling is ticking all the boxes in terms of making positive progress in the amateur ranks and, as a reward, she has earned the trip of a lifetime.
Along with five others, she is heading to Des Moines in Iowa in August to attend the Solheim Cup and take part in the handover ceremony to Scotland for the 2019 event at Gleneagles.
The group will make trip through the support of the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, Scottish Golf and the LET. It stems from an initiative borne from a Whatsapp group started by some of the girls following Scotland’s successful bid to stage the 2019 Solheim Cup.
Entitled #Project19, the group began as a way of the girl’s motivating each other to climb the amateur golf rankings and qualify to represent Team Europe at the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup, also taking place at Gleneagles. Now Darling, as well as Rachel Foster (Turnberry), Eilidh Henderson (Kirkcaldy), Evanna Hynd (Balbirnie Park), Carmen Griffiths (Aboyne) and Anna McKay (Crail Golfing Society), will all experience the thrill of the biggest team event in female golf.
The Scottish Golf Academy players will engage with Team Europe at the PING Junior Solheim Cup and they will also experience the excitement around the main event, where Matthew will be one of Swede Annika Sorenstam’s vice-captains.
Darling’s Scottish Girls success saw her eclipse Jane Connachan as the youngest victor, after her win aged 14 in 1978.
In front of a healthy crowd at Scotscraig, the three-handicapper stormed to a five-hole lead against Cardross’ Farrell, 17, after 27 holes only for her opponent to reel off five of the next six holes to draw level.
Both Scottish Golf Academy players halved the 32nd, before Darling birdied the short next and then brilliantly chipped in for an eagle at the 34th. In a classy run of golf from both players, Farrell replied at the penultimate hole before Darling holed for another birdie to seal a two-hole win.
“It’s a bit surreal at the moment, my WhatsApp is going crazy,” admitted Darling, going into third year at Lasswade High School and coached by Ian Muir.
“It’s not sunk in yet, to be honest. Jillian came back at me, she was making birdies, but chipping in twice was important at both the seventh and the 16th in the second round.”