Scotland’s First Minister gave 13 year-old Loretto golfer, Joseph Cookson, the chance of a lifetime this week at the recent Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian.
Joseph 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 on 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.
Joseph began his ClubGolf coaching at Haddington Golf Club and attended Development Centre coaching at his home club Gullane last winter under PGA Professional Jordan Ramanauskas.
Joseph is no stranger to Gullane, being a member of the golf club. He was awarded a scholarship to the Loretto Golf Academy this year, before which he won the Simmers Cup for the best gross score by an under 13 player in the UK-wide Junior Championships organised by Loretto School last September.
Joseph said: “My first tee nerves, the pressure was extreme, but midway through the round, they started to ease off but still got the shaky legs. I calmed down a lot after my birdie two on the third! My game went very well from then and all the nerves were gone. The course was very challenging, the rough was up to waist height and the fairways were like concrete, and the greens got better going around.
“I had an amazing time at the Scottish Open Pro Am and am very grateful for being given the opportunity to play with one of the best golfers in the world, Graeme McDowell. It was a great experience. Graeme gave me loads of tips and if you needed help, you just asked him straight away. It was a great day and the crowds were amazing.”
Joseph on the tee at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Pro-Am
Graeme McDowell said: “I believe Joseph is a member at Gullane, so I’ll be picking his brain on how to play the course. ClubGolf is a great initiative, the number of youngsters it has already encouraged to take up the game is tremendous, and I’m more than happy to do my bit to help grow the game even more.
“We had a really fun day 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.”