Team Taylor right on track
If the road to success in any sport is a long one, it helps to have made an early start. And current Yorkshire Girls Champion Abigail Taylor certainly did that.
Having joined dad Nick as a member at Headingley Golf Club aged just five – and where grandfather David was club captain the year she was born – the plus-2 handicapper has been rubbing shoulders with the professionals lately. Not bad for a young lady who only turned 16 in February.
Winning the Yorkshire title last year at Garforth earned Abigail an invitation to the prestigious Justin Rose/Daily Telegraph Junior Championships at Walton Heath, where she finished a more than respectable 6th. The tournament attracts as many as 16,000 entrants before being whittled down to 12, with Major winner and Olympic champion Rose on hand to greet the young golfers.
She made enough of an impression that Monday April 4th saw Abigail battling cold weather and howling winds around the links of West Lancashire GC, alongside women professionals in the first of the 2022 Rose Ladies Series. Lauren Horsford banked the £10,000 1st prize.
Abigail said she found the course long and conditions tough, but added: “I really enjoyed it. I didn’t feel my score reflected how I played, it was just a struggle in the conditions. It’s early in the season and I haven’t played many links courses.”
It wasn’t her first time amongst professionals either, as she made appearances in the 2020protour last year and would have competed in the season opener at her home club Headingley but for the Rose Ladies Series invite.
Dad Nick was full of praise for the 2020protour crew. “It was great for Abigail, playing in tournaments alongside the likes of Nick McCarthy and John Parry. Those guys were so welcoming.”
The cold and the gales of West Lancs don’t figure highly on Ms Taylor’s well laid-out plans however. She’s in her GCSE year at Prince Henry’s School in Otley and wants to do A levels in Psychology, Law and PE before heading for the sunnier climes of the USA. She has already signed up with the PeakUSA Golf Scholarship company. And her preferred destination?
“Florida State” – current home to Charlotte Heath and Dan Bradbury – “or Arizona” said Abigail, who has known PeakUSA founder Gemma Webster since her earliest involvements with representative girls squads.
For now, it’s feet firmly on the ground, working with her long-time coach Mark Pinkett at Cookridge Hall and making sure the school work doesn’t get neglected.
Dad Nick, who plays off a 2-handicap – “…and yes, she does beat me …” praised his daughter’s work ethic first and foremost. “It’s very tough, finding the balance, and yes, I give her a bit of grief. It’s hard work but I have to admit she’s very self-motivated. She does her revision through the school holidays and until 10-11pm if needed. Her school grades are excellent.
“But she’s like that on the course. A couple of times last year, like in the Yorkshire Ladies at Ilkley, she had poor starts but the biggest change was her ability to bounce back. In one round she was four or five over in the first six holes, but birdied eight of the last nine.”
For now dad and daughter agree the focus has to be reducing her scoring average year on year.
“If we look after that the handicap will look after itself,” said Nick.
Abigail’s coach Mark Pinkett paid tribute to his student. “Youngsters have to enjoy the game first and foremost, then be passionate for all the hard work involved, and Abigail is. We have a long way to go, but she’s a great student, a great friend and a pleasure to teach.”
Pinkett admits to being somewhat jealous of the US’s virtual monopoly on college talent, but remains pragmatic.
“Abigail’s education has to come first,” he said. “Then she just has to make the right choice. I’d like her to be where the best players are, so it’s about finding the right college. But once she sets her mind on something she’s pretty good.”
And for now? “I focussed a lot on making cuts last year, but I have to aim for more top-5 finishes,” said Abigail – on her way to see coach Pinkett.
You wouldn’t bet against there being a few of those.