LOTTIE WOAD made her debut on the Ladies European Tour in the Madrid Open – and at one time feared she may run out of balls.
But not for the same reason as weekend golfers!
The England girls’ squad player was offered the opportunity to play on the professional tour by Modest! Golf Management as a reward for finishing as the leading girl in last year’s English Under-18 Championship which was held at Farnham.
“The set-up for the tournament and everything that surrounded it was first-class,” said Lottie.
“There were good crowds at the weekend and a few people were asking for autographs and signed golf balls!
“That’s a first for me! I actually wasn’t sure about giving away golf balls as I didn’t know how many I had – and didn’t want to run out!”
Lottie, 18, who plays off a handicap of plus-five, made the most of the special invitation to finish ahead of a host of well-known professionals and enhance her growing reputation as one of the game’s rising talents.
She said: “I’m obviously very proud to finish where I did with four rounds under par, but I enjoyed the whole event from start to finish and can take so much away from the week beyond the score.”
Lottie showed little sign of nerves as she made her bow on the main tour and got to experience life at the top level on the LET.
“I had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot off the first hole on Thursday, which was great – and thankfully it went straight down the middle,” said Lottie.
“I was happy with how I played and had some great pairings over the four days. I got to play with Gabs Cowley and I was able to pick up so much.”
Lottie dropped just five shots in 72 holes and picked up 15 birdies in an event won by runaway victor, Spain’s Ana Pelaez.
With dad Nick on her bag, it was a family affair in Spain and Lottie admitted she gained a great insight into the levels required to make it at the top level.
“Apart from giving me the wrong crane to aim at in the distance on one hole where the tee had been moved from the practice day, we did pretty well,” joked the England international.
“In practice, the course was wet and the rough was up.
“But the rough was chopped back for the tournament and although still tough, the course dried out and scoring was good. The winning score of 23 under par was ridiculously good!
“I’m still thrilled to shoot ten under for four rounds in a LET event and can take this forward into the season back home.
“I definitely could have picked up a few more shots on the greens, especially on the final day.
“The leading players just make everything they look at – I can look to improve on holing the 20 footers and also my scoring on the par fives.
“I was up there with the field on the par threes and par fours, but was only a couple under on the par fives.
“It was my first full tour event and my first time playing in Spain. I haven’t had that much experience playing abroad apart from one or two times in Portugal and France.
“You have to learn about the greens and get used to taking 3ft of break on 6ft putts – not something you get a lot of on linksy courses back home.”
For Lottie, the excitement of Spain must now give way to studying for PE, geography and biology exams before another busy few months of amateur golf ahead of a move to Florida State University in August.
However, the golfing education she enjoyed in Spain will also prove invaluable.
“I really enjoyed the week and am so grateful to be given the chance to compete against the best professionals in Europe,” she said.
“I must say a huge thank you to Modest! for working with England Golf to offer me this amazing opportunity.”
Mark McDonnell, co-founder and director of Modest! Golf Management, said: “The performance of Lottie underlines the exact reason why Modest! wanted to work with England Golf on giving young golfers opportunities to play against the very best talent in Europe.
“Hopefully, the experience this week will further help develop Lottie and give her the belief and confidence to continue to grow.
“Well done Lottie on an incredible week.”