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MacDonald: Playing in major 'mind blowing'

You've got to hand it to Lucy Li.

Kelsey MacDonald faces step-up. Picture: kirkwoodgolf.co.uk
Kelsey MacDonald faces step-up. Picture: kirkwoodgolf.co.uk

With her pig tails, a mouthful of braces and plenty of giggles, the 11-year-old was plonked in front of the world's media in the build up to this week's US Women's Open and confidently answered a variety of questions with the carefree nonchalance of a seasoned veteran blethering away to Michael Parkinson. At the age of 11, this correspondent could barely form words, let alone coherent sentences.

"Are we creating super children?" pondered Kelsey MacDonald, the Nairn lass who will also make her major debut at Pinehurst today. "Eleven years of age is very young; she is just a kid. But I think back to when I was 11 and all I ever wanted to do was play golf. That's exactly what she's doing and I wish her all the best."

MacDonald is living her own particular dream in North Carolina. Li may be the latest new kid on the golfing block but MacDonald has come a long way too.

"The first golf event I went to was the Dunhill Links when I was eight and I remember being so small I couldn't see anything so I sneaked under the 18th marker sign to sit and watch Colin Montgomerie," recalled the 23-year-old Scot. Today, she'll be inside the ropes for real and competing alongside the big hitters of the women's game.

The bold experiment by the United States Golf Association of staging the men's and women's Opens in consecutive weeks on the same course continues at Pinehurst No. 2. For MacDonald, it's a case of access all areas. "I don't think you can put into words what it means to play in a major," added the former Scottish Women's Amateur champion, who earned her US Open spot in a European qualifier at The Buckinghamshire recently.

"It's mind blowing. I got out here last Thursday so I was able to watch a lot of the men's Open. I managed to get inside the ropes access on the final day which was unbelievable; a dream come true. The course is holding up well and from playing the practice rounds, we are nowhere near where the men were hitting their approach shots from so the course isn't as chewed up as people may have thought at first. They have tried soaking the greens but because it's so hot it's still playing unbelievably quick. The greens are just ridiculous, in a good way."

The abundant rigours of Pinehurst will be a new challenge for MacDonald as she continues her development in the professional ranks. Under the watchful gaze of her coach and mentor Robert Rock, the two-time European Tour champion, MacDonald, who made the pro plunge just over a year ago, continues to find her feet and this week's proceedings will be another significant step in that learning process. "I was given opportunities to play in pro events as an amateur so I feel that helped a lot with the initial transition," noted MacDonald, who has notched a series of top-10s on the Ladies European Tour's Access Series. "Robert has been the biggest help and the most important thing is having that team of people around you who can offer guidance."

Having enjoyed a practice round with Cristie Kerr, the former US Women's Open champion and the current world No 10, MacDonald has been keeping good company. Catriona Matthew, a fellow graduate of Stirling University and Scotland's highest-ranked golfer on the world stage, will also be keeping her company this week.

"It's a huge for me to be representing the Scottish blue and white alongside a major winner and Solheim Cup player like Catriona," said MacDonald. "It is giving me the drive and the focus to aim high and slowly follow in Catriona's steps. So far, so good."

MacDonald's journey continues at Pinehurst.

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