Gala teen tees up for the First Minister

Graeme McDowell Jack McDonald Joseph Cookson Anna McKay during a preview day ahead of the Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club, East Lothian. Photograph: Kenny Smith/PA Wire.
Graeme McDowell Jack McDonald Joseph Cookson Anna McKay during a preview day ahead of the Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club, East Lothian. Photograph: Kenny Smith/PA Wire.
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Scotland’s First Minister has given a young golfer from Galashiels the chance of a lifetime at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

Thirteen year-old Jack McDonald was one of three youngsters invited by Nicola Sturgeon to play in the Scottish Government team in the Pro-Am which preceded the European Tour tournament at Gullane last Wednesday (8 July).

The First Minister asked ClubGolf, the national junior development programme, to choose the players, who were invited to a star-studded reception at Edinburgh Castle the evening before the event where she revealed they would be playing with US Open winner and Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell.

Jack also teamed up with 11 year-old Anna McKay from Crail, Joseph Cookson (13) from Haddington. All three have been coached through ClubGolf and the Scottish Golf Development Centres programme which is for players aged 11 to 20. Jack began his coaching at St Boswells where he has been junior champion the past two years, and attended Development Centre coaching at Kings Acre under PGA Professional John Murray last winter.

The Torwoodlee junior arrived at Gullane on a high after becoming the youngest ever winner of the C-class handicap men’s championship at Galashiels Golf Club the previous Saturday, a double for the McDonalds with dad Scott winning the B-class. Scott walked round with the teenager while mum Karen was busy watching his sister Katie at pony club camp. Papa Bill, who took Jack to his first lessons at St Boswells, friends, and teachers from Galashiels Academy cheered Jack round the course and witnessed him achieve something in front of the main grandstand many professional golfers only dream of.

He said: “The highlight of my day was birdying the 18th in front of the crowd. It was amazing. Graeme is such a good guy. I had a bunker lesson on the course. It was a great experience, and great fun.”

On completing their round, Graeme McDowell said: “We had a really fun day here at the Pro-Am at the Scottish Open. The First Minister and the Scottish Government gave up one of their slots to Clubgolf and three great young players, Anna, Joseph and Jack. They are great kids and great players and the future of Scottish Golf. It is great to see the legacy from the Ryder Cup and great for the development of golf in Scotland and I wish them all the best.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our innovative ClubGolf programme has introduced the game to more than 350,000 youngsters across Scotland, and Anna, Joseph and Jack are fantastic examples of what the programme set out to achieve – youngsters who picked up a club and who have continued to be involved in the sport from then on.

“We are always looking to introduce the next generation of champions to a game which originated in Scotland and the ClubGolf programme is key to this. Anna, Joseph and Jack have a fantastic opportunity to learn from a Major Champion in Graeme McDowell and I hope they benefit from this unique experience and I wish them all the best with their future in golf.”

ClubGolf Manager, Jackie Davidson, said: “We would like to thank the First Minister for giving our young golfers this amazing opportunity to play in the Scottish Open Pro-Am.

“ClubGolf is not just about introducing nine-year olds to the sport in primary schools. We are also working on getting more young people involved in secondary school, and supporting them through year-round coaching in our Scottish Golf Development centre programme, and through club and school sport competition.

“Golf is unique in allowing all ages and abilities to play and compete together, and the young players chosen to represent the Scottish Government have undoubted ability. It was wonderful to see them playing well, having fun, and a pleasure to see them and their families enjoy the whole day.”

The McDonald family were also invited to enjoy the final day’s play of the Scottish Open last Sunday.