Annabel Wilson: Curtis Cup dream alive for Lurgan teenager

By Brian JohnstonBBC Sport NI
Annabel Wilson
Annabel Wilson competed at last year's World Invitational tournament

The postponement of the Curtis Cup until next year has made Annabel Wilson even more determined to be part of the Great Britain and Ireland team which will take on the United States in 2021.

The competition has been rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lurgan golfer had hoped to make her debut in Conwy in Wales in June, after being named in the initial panel of 10 for the amateur matchplay event.

The final line-up of eight players for the tournament had yet to be named.

"I knew it was coming. June was just too soon but sure it's something to look forward to next year," said the 18-year-old.

"At least the event hasn't been cancelled, only postponed. The Curtis Cup is the pinnacle of amateur golf and I'll be playing my best to get on the team."

'It was getting too crazy over there'

Annabel's first year at college in the USA has been cut short by the Covid-19 outbreak and she arrived back in Lurgan from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), on 19 March.

"It was getting too crazy over there - I was one of the last members of the team to come home and it was the best decision," she explained.

"It's a lot to take in but all you can do right now is sit tight, stay at home and wait for this to blow over. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

"I think I was in denial when the season was called off - a lot of us were - it was a tough pill to swallow but we have to move on, accept it and look at the bigger picture."

The County Armagh native is a two-time Irish girls' champion, who won the Irish Women's Close Championship at Woodbrook last year.

Annabel Wilson
Wilson competed for Ireland in the 2018 Women's World Amateur Team Championships

A rising star of Irish golf

She is regarded as one of the rising stars of Irish golf and is thoroughly enjoying college life at UCLA.

"I settled in quickly. They always say the first semester is the toughest with home sickness but I adapted really well. The Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) has definitely helped in that respect," said Wilson.

"I was only 13 when I had my first long-haul flight, off playing golf for Ireland, so I was well travelled. The opportunities with the ILGU stood to me and have made me a more rounded person.

"I just enjoy travelling all over America. I was fortunate enough to have a hole in one at a tournament in Hawaii in November.

"Playing there was such a great experience. They said the Kohala course wasn't the most scenic but it was stunning. Colorado was another great venue - playing at 8,000 feet above sea level."

'Haven't touched a golf club in three weeks'

Wilson's playing schedule is obviously on hold for now, but she has mapped out a tentative schedule for whenever the season restarts.

"I had planned my summer back around three major events - the British Amateur, the European Team Championship and the European individual tournament and then head back to the USA at the beginning of August but we'll have to wait and see," she explained.

"I'm lucky we live in the country here in Northern Ireland and there is a lot of land. I have a net and a mat so I can hit drivers and I have an eight-foot putting strip.

"I haven't actually touched a golf club in three weeks and I'm starting to miss it - I've put up the net and cleaned the putting strip ready to go."

Wilson, who turns 19 later this month, has also had success in team competition, winning a bronze medal for Ireland alongside Leona Maguire and Olivia Mehaffey at the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico.

Olivia Mehaffey
Tandragee's Olivia Mehaffey is hoping to play in her third Curtis Cup ibn 2021

"I saw quite a lot of Olivia with her being at Arizona State as we play a similar schedule and of course back in Northern Ireland we live quite close to each other. Leona is terrific and it was pretty cool to play in the same team as her," added Wilson.

"I think the future of Irish women's golf is really bright - we have Leona and Stephanie Meadow both on the LPGA Tour and I think very soon there will be others like Olivia on tour.

"Leona and Stephanie have shown they can compete at the very top level. I hope one day to join them.

"I think being in the USA is the right move. You are playing and testing yourself against the best players on different courses with different types of grass. Playing here helps you develop the skills you need to play at the highest level.

"I got my first taste of pro life when I played at the Handa Invitational at Galgorm last August. It was a great experience. I wasn't nervous and loved hanging out in the players lounge. I did well in the first round and it was great to see Stephanie win."

Away from the golf course, Wilson is a keen supporter of Liverpool FC but she fears they may have to wait another season before finally landing that elusive league title.

"I honestly don't think this season will be completed but there's always next year. We might as well do it right. After 30 years, another one, won't make any difference!" she said.

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