Yorkshire golf: New county champion Megan Garland instantly raises her targets

Megan Garland receives the trophy from Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs president Jonathan Plaxton after winning the county championship at Huddersfield GC.
Megan Garland receives the trophy from Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs president Jonathan Plaxton after winning the county championship at Huddersfield GC.
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SELBY GC’S Megan Garland was quick to notice that she was the odd one out in the Yorkshire ladies championship semi-final line-up at Huddersfield GC as the only player not to have won the title.

She was also quick to put the matter to rights, knocking out defending champion Megan Lockett after 22 holes on her home course in the semi-finals and then getting the better of three-time champion Emma Brown (Malton & Norton GC) 3&1 in the final.

Having won the Northern Close championship at Eaglescliffe GC two years ago, the plus one handicapper has now set her sights on achieving a hat-trick by stepping up another level and winning a national title.

“It would be nice to win a national title, I know I can do it,” said the 23-year-old.

“I’ve just gone back to plus one, plus point six, and it would be nice to end the year on a steady plus one or even plus two.”

Her self-belief appears well founded given that she placed 12th in the British ladies’ open amateur stroke play championship at Moortown GC last summer despite three-putting no fewer than 16 times in her four rounds.

Steve Robinson, the England coach at Sandburn Hall, has since helped Garland with her putting mechanics and the result is far more confidence in what – along with driving – is a key component of the game.

“You should see the difference between my first stance when we began work on it and how I putt now,” she said. “I was like Michelle Wie (former US Open champion), bent right over the ball.”

Garland’s driving is also a strength of her game, and her length off the tee is an undoubted asset.

“I do hit quite a long ball,” she said. “Against Ellie (Goodall, her Selby club-mate and quarter-final opponent) at the fourth, I saw she was hitting a rescue club for her tee shot and I hit six iron, which is quite a bit of difference.

“It is a great help to have that sort of advantage.”

Garland’s hopes of a first Yorkshire crown appeared to be dwindling when she was hit by a hot streak from the title holder and home favourite Lockett in the semi-finals.

“I went two down after Megan eagled the 12th then birdied the 13th,” recalled the new champion.

“She also had a birdie at the 14th, but fortunately so did I and we halved it.

“I was still two down with three to play, but I have been in that position before – when I won the Northern Close title – and I still thought I could win it.

“When Megan had that eagle and then a birdie – well, it just happens. It’s golf. You just have to get on with it.”

Wins at holes 16 and 18 meant the match went to a sudden-death play-off. Garland’s length saw her hit the long first in two and she was favourite to end the match there, but a superb 70-yard pitch from Lockett that almost went in ensured more work was required.

Ultimately, Garland won at the par-3 22nd hole with a laser-like iron shot that left a tricky, sliding, downhill four-footer, to which she was equal.

It was her second extra-time contest, but while this involved the current champion, the first had been against a 13-year-old up-and-coming talent in Renishaw Park GC’s Libby Kilbride.

“Libby absolutely played fantastic,” said Garland, who ultimately won with a birdie at the second additional hole. “She was three under for the back nine, someone who was scoring the match told me.

“No matches are easy, but you would have thought that would be easier than some, a young girl coming up, but she gave me a really good game. All credit to her.”

Like most players, Garland will have been told of how ill advised it can be to beat your boss at golf.

That is what she did in the final at Huddersfield, though, for three-times Curtis Cup player Brown is assistant golf manager at Sandburn, and gave Garland part-time work at the club when she returned to England after graduating in America with a degree in criminology.

Eventually she became full time, working in the pro shop and also, on occasions, the bar.

“I asked Emma after the final ‘Are you going to give me the day off tomorrow?’ and she laughed ‘No, I’m not’,” said Garland. “She said she was going to give me a few of the crappy jobs to do.”

The pair are good friends, and Garland admitted: “It was kind of a tough match to play against someone you’ve been close with – and being a former Curtis Cup player, I knew I had a really difficult game on my hands.”

Some preceding county champions have used winning the title as the catalyst for turning professional, but the 2016 edition is a little circumspect about taking the step.

“Right now, I’m looking for a good amateur career,” she said. “It’s interesting to see what the people I have played with do – if they turn pro and play well then why wouldn’t I give it a go?

“But I’ve seen a lot of people turn pro and they’re not doing really well. It’s a huge transition and I think a lot of the girls don’t know that.”

Playing the amateur circuit at the highest level requires a large investment of both time and money – and a great deal of understanding from employers.

It is part of the reason she has yet to consider pursuing a career that makes use of her criminology degree.

“Sandburn works well because they understand my golf and they understand I need time off,” she said. “Emma’s really understanding with doing the rota and giving me the time off I need.”