Maria is a Ryder Cup winner!

Maria Cowan, third left back row, with Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson, Sports Minister Shona Robinson and the other young golfers at Gleneagles
Maria Cowan, third left back row, with Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson, Sports Minister Shona Robinson and the other young golfers at Gleneagles

Young Whauphill golfer Maria Cowan had the time of her life when she teamed up with Ryder Cup captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley this week.

Maria, 14, joined a group of other talented young players at Gleneagles on Monday to mark one year until the Perthshire course hosts the event, the first time the Ryder Cup has come to Scotland for 41 years.

Maria was part of Team McGinley as they competed against Team Watson – and Maria helped the Europe captain to victory! She also took part in a “closest to the hole” competition against the two stars. Both competitions, compered by sports broadcaster Dougie Donnelly, took place over Gleneagles’ remodelled PGA Centenary Course.

And Maria’s efforts at the closest to the hold on the 10th won her a fabulous prize of four tickets to the opening day of the Ryder Cup. She is bound to be in demand now but said she didn’t know who she would be taking with her!

Maria, a member at St Medan with a handicap of 14, said: “It was a really good day. We left about 8.30am and arrived just after 11.

“The best part was playing with the captains. That was a great experience.”

The Douglas Ewart High pupil admitted, however, that there was extra pressure from the masses of assembled media who were present. “It was a bit nerve-wracking!” she said.

Maria’s mum, Mary, was there too and also had a fantastic time. “We were on Sky Sports News!” she said. “It was amazing. Maria did so well – I couldn’t watch as she was playing her shots with all the cameras flashing and press everywhere.”

Richard Hills, director of Ryder Cup Europe, said: “Events like this are at the heart of the Ryder Cup. It shows that golf is a fun, accessible sport for boys and girls of all ages, with the focus on camaraderie and team spirit beyond anything else.

“Congratulations to all of our participants. We hope that seeing peers competing alongside the 2014 Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson will have helped inspire a whole generation of future Scottish golf stars.”

All 16 participants were selected after applications were invited from Scottish Golf’s Development Centre programme, operating across Scotland. In phase one of the programme, 24 PGA professionals were engaged in the delivery of 30 hours of coaching to almost 300 aspiring young players. Phase two, featuring an additional 14 facilities, commences in October and forms an important facet of the more advanced stages of the ClubGolf Player Pathway.

Sport Minister Shona Robison said: “Today was inspirational for all involved and I think that Paul and Tom would agree with me that Scotland has some outstanding talent. I am grateful to them for devoting so much time to our stars of the future.”