HEADINGLEY’S Abigail Taylor is applying a scientific approach to her golf game and it is helping the talented 12-year-old find a winning formula in events at all levels.
The most recent of her triumphs came in trying circumstances at Hawkstone Park last month where she emerged victorious in the Midlands Under-16s Amateur Handicap Trophy.
So sodden were the conditions that many players, parents and even some officials were suggesting the competition should be abandoned.
But Abigail, whose progress since the age of five has won her recognition at both county and national level, embraced the challenge that the wet weather threw at her.
“The conditions were awful, I think the worst I’ve played in,” she reflected before adding: “But I just had to think that there was nothing I could do about the conditions; you have just got to play your own game.
“I concentrated on what I’ve been working on with my game and on my process.
“You just have to stay positive. You don’t want to let negative thoughts in because that can get you down.”
Although she missed the cut for the gross strokeplay element of the event after rounds of 90 and 93, Abigail showed her determination by firing her lowest career score to date – 81 – to win the handicap section.
And this despite playing against a field in which the majority of competitors were two to three years her senior.
Her first handicap was 54, but it had tumbled to 12 by the end of 2017 after a year in which she won the Yorkshire Under-16s championship when just 11.
Not that she uses her handicap as a yardstick for her progess, nor lowering it as a target.
“I believe that if I practise and concentrate on my game my handicap will come down as a result of all the hard work, so I don’t really work on a handicap target,” she explained.
“I work on my scoring average more because that will bring my handicap down. It is all cause and effect really.”
Science is among her favourite subjects and her analytical method to golf sees her make maximum use of the technology available to the modern player.
She uses programs that enable her to sift through her statistics round by round so that she can shape her practice sessions around areas of her game that may need improvement.
“The stats collected from my rounds show me things like how many fairways I’ve missed and greens I’ve hit in regulation, how many up-and-downs I’ve achieved – that kind of thing,” said Abigail.
“If I’m only hitting 20 per cent of greens, say, then I will focus my practice on that until I get better.
“I love the process and the fact that the more practice you put in clearly the better you can get.”
As well as receiving regular coaching from Andrew Nicholson at the Wynyard club in the North East under the England Golf umbrella, Abigail is also tutored by The Oaks’ Lysa Jones and Mark Pinkett, at Cookridge Hall.
“Going to Cookridge Hall, there are a lot of inspiring, elite players there,” said Abigail. “Being surrounded by good players there like (Leeds Union team member) Tom Broxup and (Ladies European Tour competitor) Kiran Matharu, that is one of my favourite things about Cookridge.
“You have a 12-year-old mixing with all these elite players, who obviously know what they are talking about, and they give up their time to help you, which is really nice of them and I am so very thankful for that.”
Abigail’s connections reach all the way to the top of the golfing tree as she has become friends with USA Solheim Cup players Morgan Pressel and Lexi Thompson, both of whom she has met at the Ladies’ British Open and both of whom send her encouragement and advice via email.
“Lexi is very nice and she gave me a signed glove when I went to see the Ricoh Women’s Open a couple of years ago – and when I went back last year she remembered me, which I thought was fantastic,” said a delighted Abigail.
“Morgan has been really good to me, too, and they have both offered help on things like tournament preparation.”
Abigail has done more than just voice her appreciation for the assistance she has received from Pressel and Thompson.
She has followed their lead by taking part in the Girls Golf Rocks scheme, run by the Golf Foundation, acting as a tutor for players taking their first tentative steps in the sport.
“I have been involved in the programme called Girls Golf Rocks and that was really fun to help them,” said Abigail.
“It was held at Rudding Park, and the girls get a taster session and then sign up for five weeks coaching and end it by playing on a par-3 course at Rudding Park.”
The girls Abigail assisted were aged 12 to 15 and she admitted it felt “very weird” playing the role of teacher when some of her pupils were older than herself. Her commitment to the scheme speaks volumes of her love for the game and her desire to spread the gospel.
And one day she hopes she will emulate further her golfing heroes Pressel and Thompson by playing tournament golf for a living. “I would love to play professionally,” she said.
Don’t bet against her wish coming true.