2017 was a very busy year for 17-year-old Bel Wardle.

As well as playing for the England Team in the World Junior Championships in Canada, she also won the English Women’s Amateur and the English Girls Championships.

The next 12 months look even more promising. She has just been announced as part of the provisional Team GB&I squad for the Curtis Cup, and come September she will be moving across the world to play golf and study at the University of California in Los Angeles.

I chatted to the Cheshire student about the lengthy process of securing a US college scholarship, what drives her to win, and how, amidst all this excitement, she’s managing to stay focused on her upcoming A-levels..

Congratulations on making it onto the initial Curtis Cup team, are you pleased?

It’s just an amazing opportunity. I love matchplay, so to be able to play for Team GB&I against the US in probably the most competitive match of the year is so exciting.

I know most of them on the team because we all play in the same tournaments. I went to the World Championships with Lily and Annabel so I know them really well. It would be great to have as many English players in the Curtis Cup as possible because I know we have such a strong team. To win on American soil would be incredible.

Are you excited about moving to California for college?

Absolutely, I went over there for the second time a few months ago and it definitely just confirmed that I’d made the right decision. The weather was brilliant as well, it was about 18 degrees but I still saw someone wearing a bobble hat!  Their idea of cold weather is so different to ours. I won’t have to ever play through mud like we have to do over here.

I’m really looking forward to being on a team. It’s going to be pretty cool to be part of something where everyone supports each other and we all want to win as a team. That will be amazing.

I’ve never played in America before so I’m really looking forward to it. The courses out there are brilliant.

How did you go about applying for a place at a US college?

We went to Andy Newman at United Sports USA Golf because we didn’t have a clue where to start.

The first step was to decide where in America I actually wanted to go, because it’s such a huge country.

Then when I came second at the British Girls in 2016 that kind of opened things up and suddenly there were a whole load of coaches who wanted to speak to me. Andy advised me on which ones I should talk to and he was very helpful in that respect.

After that I picked my top-five colleges based on things like where they ranked and which ones I liked after speaking to their coaches. When I spoke to Carrie and Alicia, who are the coaches at UCLA, I could tell straight away that they were the ones that I wanted to work with.

I had an official visit where I went over for to LA for 48 hours, so it really was a flying visit! I got to meet the team and it was brilliant.

The first time they saw me play was at the English Women’s Amateur Championship. Then they saw me play a few more times and I finally committed in January last year.

Are you at all nervous about going?

I’m excited to go, but it’s scary to think that I will be moving so far away and I don’t think I’ll come home from September to December. I’ve never been away from home for that long.

But I’m going out to play golf and study so I want to do it. People say that the first month is the toughest, just while you are still getting your head around everything.

It’s a different education system over there so I have to get used to that. However there’s so much support on offer so I’m sure I will be fine.

Are you doing your A-levels at the moment?

Yes, they’re tough! But I’ve got to do them, it’s just one of those things. When I have a free period I’m allowed to go out of school and play golf and I’ll cram in lots of revision at the end of the year.

I won’t let the exams stop me playing golf; I’ve found a way to do both. I’m not at a sports college or anything like that, just a normal school. Nobody else plays golf there. My friends are always complaining that I’m never at school because I’m at competitions, but I haven’t had that many over the last few months.

My close friends are all going to university in this country and studying medicine and things like that, which would be my worst nightmare!

What do they think to your golf?

They have never watched me play, but they try to understand the scoring so they can check how I’m doing when I’m competing. I’ve tried to explain the handicap system to them but they just don’t get it.

It’s nice for me to go back to people who don’t play golf and have a different set of friends. I prefer it to being surrounded by golf all the time; I like having a bit of down time.

Have you made many friends through golf?

Definitely, it has improved my confidence so much. I have a good set of friends, there’s maybe five or six of us, and we always play a practice round before competitions. I never would have met them if it wasn’t for golf.

Are your family very supportive?

Yes, my mum and dad always come with me to competitions, although my sister hates golf and she never wants to play. But she did actually caddie for me at the English Women’s Championship when I won, so it was pretty successful for her first time! It would take something pretty big for her to change her mind about golf though.

What has been your proudest moment in your golf career so far?

It would have to be my first breakthrough win at the English Women’s Championship. I was leading going into the last day when I entered in 2016 but then I completely blew it. It was the worst feeling ever, I couldn’t even put into words how I felt. So when I was leading on the last day this year I was so determined not to lose again.

It was nice to see my progression, like this time I could control myself and actually get over the line to finally win.

The conditions were awful as well with such strong winds. I think I hit a driver on a par 3! It was ridiculous.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a golfer?

I played my first English girls competition when I was about 12 so it was probably around then. That was when I suddenly decided that I wanted to win tournaments and go on to be the best player in the world.

I’ve always loved sport and in every sport I’ve played I’ve always wanted to be the best. I’m so competitive, I don’t ever want to be second or draw. That is the worst! There has got to be a winner.

It doesn’t matter if I’m playing with men or women, I still want to beat them.

Which professional golfers do you admire?

At the moment it has to be Justin Rose, he’s really on fire. He’s suddenly got his game together.

I’ve also always liked Lexi Thompson and Stacey Lewis. When Stacey was at her best she was so consistent every week.

I mean to win you have to score the low scores. So I just look at the players who do that and think about what they are doing differently.


How do you think we can encourage more young women to play golf?

I think rules on golf courses need to be relaxed as they are just way too strict. Like today I went to my club in a hoody and I put a jacket on over the top because I knew I would get told off otherwise.

It also needs to be more inclusive. To me it still feels like a male-dominated sport, particularly in the UK.

But it’s hard to see it changing, because nobody is really putting their foot down.

I think going into schools to do clinics would help. Like even if I just went in and showed students that I can hit 250-yard drives. Because people think ‘oh girls can’t hit it very far’, but they can. I think showing that it can be done will encourage other girls to give it a go.

What do you think to the difference in pay on the male and female tours?

Oh, it’s just embarrassing what the difference is. It’s hard to even talk about it because it’s so bad on the Ladies European Tour at the moment. To make the big jump from paying £60,000 to the women to like £900,000 for the men. You can’t just change that in a year.


What are your goals for this year?

Well the first thing was to make the team for the Curtis Cup and to put in some really solid performances in the first few tournaments.

Then to just get my A-levels out of the way so I can enjoy the summer. I want to play as well as I can but I also want to make the most of my time at home. I think the English Women’s is at Wilmslow this year, which is just two minutes down the road from me. So I’m hoping that all my family and friends can come out and watch.

I also want to just try and win again, maybe get a few top-10 finishes and increase my world ranking.

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