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Dazzled by the talents of American rising star Rose Zhang, 12-year-old Moray golfer Olivia McPherson wants to inspire more females to take up the sport after her memorable first competitive year

By Craig Christie

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When precocious US women's golfing talent Rose Zhang stunned the world by winning a LPGA Tour event on her professional debut, one of her biggest fans in Moray was starstruck.

Olivia McPherson was a junior winner at Elgin Golf Club in her first competitive year.
Olivia McPherson was a junior winner at Elgin Golf Club in her first competitive year.

Forres Academy pupil Olivia McPherson (12) had been following the progress of the former American amateur champion, and was inspired while she honed her own skills in the sport.

This year, Burgie-based Olivia, who first picked up a club at the age of three, started competing in junior and adult competitions across the north - with remarkable success.

She has won trophies at Forres, Elgin, Hopeman and recently helped her Nairn team win a North District title in Muir of Ord.

A trophy winner at Forres Golf Club.
A trophy winner at Forres Golf Club.

Her dad Stephen Chalmers, who first got Olivia into golf, hopes his daughter's achievements can persuade more young females to swing into action and sign up for their local club.

"She is one of the few girls that actually plays golf and she has had a great season and is super keen," he said.

"She is an exceptional talent and she loves it. She always wants to go to the golf and loves beating the boys.

"I’d just love to see more girls playing golf and maybe Olivia can inspire them."

Olivia's favourite course is at Nairn Golf Club, but she is also a member at Forres, Moray and Hopeman.

From the age of seven she came under the wing of Forres-based golf coach David Torrance, who taught the likes of current PGA Tour star Russell Knox and Ladies European Tour player Kelsey MacDonald, both in their junior years.

This year, Olivia entered her first-ever competition at Hopeman, where her grandparents live. She then entered two ladies competitions at Forres, finishing second and third.

Olivia's first silverware success wasn't far away, as at the Forres club championships she won the trophy for the lowest nett score on the last day.

She was third handicap finisher at a Nairn junior open, then won the Elgin junior open the following week.

Her talents led to selection for North District Championship events and she came second in a tourney at Muir of Ord and helped her Nairn Golf Club group win the team competition.

Olivia's success didn't stop there. Next port of call was Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth where she competed in her first-ever matchplay event, defeating a 15-year-old player from Duff House Royal on the final hole.

Olivia McPherson on the putting green at Moray Golf Club, where she defeated a 15-year-old boy on her matchplay debut.
Olivia McPherson on the putting green at Moray Golf Club, where she defeated a 15-year-old boy on her matchplay debut.

"My handicap has come down from 47 to 18 this year," Olivia said. " For the next year I just want to get my handicap down, maybe close to single figures if I can. That would be a big ambition for me."

The first-year pupil spoke about her interest in a sport she is now firmly addicted to.

"I started when I was 3 or 4 at Nairn. My dad got me into the golf and I didn't need much persuading. Only in the last six months to a year have I started playing junior competitions.

"I like the championship course at Nairn best.

"I’ve had a good year. The season is coming to an end now but I have winter coaching up at Forres on a Saturday for two hours, that is district coaching."

The youngster spoke about her admiration for 20-year-old Zhang, who was nine when she first started playing. A college star, she was ranked world number one female in the amateur ranks and after turning pro, she made history by becoming the first golfer in 72 years to win a tourney on her LPGA debut.

"When I was 10 or 11, I looked up to Rose Zhang who has only just turned professional in the first few months

When I was ten 11 I looked up to a pro golfer called Rose Zhang whose college was Stanford, and who has turned professional in the last few months," she said.

"She won her first event as a professional and I have always looked up to her and wanted to be like her."

Her time at the David Torrance Academy in Forres has clearly benefited Olivia's game.

"He’s been very good for me," shesaid. "He coached me from the age of seven and taught me loads of things - my grip, my backswing and loads of things, pretty much everything. He has pretty much reshaped my swing."

Dad Stephen is understandably proud of Olivia's progression. "I've noticed a big difference in her this year when she came out of the North District winter coaching.

"I try to stay out of the way and don't follow her around (in competitions) but I did see her teeing off at Elgin and she put her first shot in the bushes.

"When I saw her at the end, she told me she shot a 62 nett, even with an eight at the start."

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