TEENAGE golfing talent Dulcie Sverdloff has come back from her first year at college in the United States believing she can make it as a professional – and her results are proving it.
The 19-year-old, who learnt her game at Southend’s Garon Park Golf Club, took up the offer of a scholarship at Kennesaw State University in Georgia last year and has impressed on the US fairways.
She was named freshman of the year by her university after a string of fine results against some of the best young players in the world who are signed to colleges across the States.
Now she is back in England for the summer and has set her sights on making her first British Open Championships.
“It’s the best decision I’ve made, 100 per cent,” said Sverdloff. “If you go to the US, you’ve got everything you want to become a better player and my game has come on so much.
“I’ve only properly realised that since I’ve come back for the summer. My eyes have been opened by the progress I have made compared to players who were beating me last year. They’re not beating me now, my scores are better and my confidence has grown. I believe in myself and believe I can make it as a professional.”
Sverdloff’s blossoming confidence has been reflected in her results since returning to England.
She gave the eventual finalist Leslie Cloots, of Belgium, a real test after qualifying for the matchplay stages of the British Open Amateur Championships at Royal St Georges in Sandwich last weekend and then, on Monday, booked her place in the field for the final qualifying of the British Championships by finishing tied second at the pre-qualifying event at Berkshire Golf Club.
“In the British Amateurs she (Cloots) started birdie, birdie, birdie and I was three-down after three holes. But I came back and only lost 2&1. And I had a couple of free putts that I missed so I could easily have got it back.
“It was good to know I wasn’t far away. On the one hand it was frustrating to see her get to the final knowing how close to beating her I was. On the other hand, it shows what level I’m at.
“I then went into the pre-qualifiers for the Open feeling confident. It was at Berkshire and I had played there a few weeks before and done well, so I had good vibes and I did really well.”
Sverdloff certainly did do well. She shot a round of 69 to finish second and finish ahead a whole field of current professionals. She was also the highest place amateur and the first English woman.
“I went in feeling I had nothing to lose,” said Sverdloff. “It was only really the next day when I was looking at the results that I realised just how good some of the players I had beaten were.”
There is little time for Sverdloff to reflect on her achievements, however. She is in action at the Women’s Open Mid-Amateur Championships in Bath today, with the final qualifying for the Open taking place in Southport on Monday.
“I’m hoping to make the final of the Mid-Amateurs,” said Sverdloff. “But that would mean missing the practice round of the Open qualifiers on the Sunday. The plan is to drive straight up there on Sunday night and walk the course that evening, or depending on my tee-off time, the next morning, if all goes to plan.”
One other complication is with the Mid-Amateurs played in matchplay format, Sverdloff will have to quickly switch back to strokeplay for the Open qualifiers.
But that is something she has got used to in recent weeks.
“I love matchplay, but I didn’t play any of it in America so I had to get back into it quickly when I came back,” said Sverdloff, who says that’s not the only difference in cultures between English and American golf.
“I’d say playing in the US is a true test of golf,” she said. “Over here you can pitch 20 yards from the green and the ball will run on. In the States the courses are so well manicured, you have to pitch it right next to the hole if you are going to have any chance. That’s the difference.
“It took a while to adjust to being back in England but I wanted to play the traditional English circuit and hopefully that will end with the Open.
“My friend (and fellow Essex player) Gabrielle Cowley qualified for the Open last year and watching her on TV was amazing. I’d love it to be me there this time.”