"Queen gets a new job". Don't worry, Her Royal Highness has not fallen on hard times. The golfer with the regal surname, though, still needs to make ends meet. If only Clare Queen was next in line to the throne, then there would be no worries.
After seven years on the Ladies European Tour, Queen is slowly adapting to a 9 to 5 routine. "I'm back in the real world . . . and it's not as bad as people have made it out to be," joked the 30-year-old from Coatbridge.
Playing golf, both as one of the country's leading amateurs and then as a globetrotting professional, was all Queen had ever known. Giving it up was never going to be easy but the hand-to-mouth existence of a toiling touring pro left her with little choice. Having reached a career high of 39th in Europe during the 2007 campaign, Queen's subsequent struggles led to her slithering down the rankings. From 14 events on 2010, for instance, she cobbled together barely €2000.
"The last three seasons on tour had been pretty tough and it was just a huge relief when I finally made the decision to stop," admitted Queen, whose highlights on the circuit were three sixth-place finishes. "For my mental sanity, it was something I had to do. The money side was getting to me and that becomes all you think about. My 30th birthday was coming up and that was in my mind too. I felt I needed to settle down, get a place of my own, those kind of things. But all that seemed very far away the way I was going. It was a scary prospect. I would ask myself 'what do I do now?' I knew it wouldn't just be as simple as walking into a job."
Queen went back to basics and did something that simply passed her by in a career consumed by golf. "I went on work experience," she added. A three-month placement with Project Scotland, the national volunteer scheme aimed at getting 18 to 30-year-olds into work, opened the doors of opportunity and led to a full-time post with Active Schools, as well as an association with the junior programme Clubgolf. She is now using her experiences of life on tour to encourage a new generation to get into the swing of the game.
"The work experience convinced me that I still wanted to stay in sport in some way," she said. "I had some great experiences on the tour and what happened didn't leave me sitting in a dark room saying 'I hate golf'. I didn't pick up a club for four months, other than to teach some young kids on my placement. I honestly thought I would miss it but I haven't. I threw myself into the process of getting a job and now I want to make a success of that. I genuinely loved my time on tour but this is a new chapter."
Queen still keeps a keen eye on the domestic scene. Today at Scotscraig, the latest batch of leading Scottish amateurs are in action in the Women's Home Internationals. Alyson McKechin, the 20-year-old Scottish champion from Elderslie, headlines a side that is bristling with talented youngsters. In fact, it's one of the youngest Home International sides for a while and the rookie quartet of Heather Munro, Gabrielle MacDonald, Hannah McCook and reigning Scottish girls' champion Connie Jaffrey will all gain some valuable experience at the top level.
The Scots won the annual four-cornered contest in Wrexham back in 2010 but finished with the wooden spoon in Cork last season. With England aiming for a third successive crown, the rest face a stern test. The holders have a squad featuring Lauren Taylor, who won on the Ladies European Tour's Access Series in Sweden last weekend, and the British champion Georgia Hall, who was the joint leading amateur in last month's Women's British Open at St Andrews.
"We have a young team and it's good that they are getting the chance at this level," said Queen, a former British Women's Amateur Strokeplay champion. "I played in the Home Internationals from 2002 to 2005 but was never on a winning team. That's one of the big regrets in my career."