A chance visit to a golf course, casually picking up a plastic club and having a go, set one of Wales’s brightest young talents on a journey which has already taken her to St Andrews and US Open venue Torrey Pines.
Adelaide Francis, from Nantyglo, is still aged just 10, but what is remarkable about her story as a ‘Welsh Mini Master’ and world golf putting challenge winner, is that she comes from a non-golfing family and it was a a fluke that she took up the sport at all.
“Golf would not have been a sport we would have chosen, so there are lots and lots of children out there like Addie who just need to be given an opportunity,” admitted mother Tracey Francis. “If I had not gone to that golf club one day by chance then there is no way Addie would have been introduced to golf.”
Addie’s development has been quite staggering in five years since starting through Tri-Golf, winning the British Callaway championships for girls aged 9-10, the world Odyssey putting championships in Torrey Pines for girls 9-10, the Phil Gooding cup for boys and girls at the Monmouthshire golf club and the 9 hole competition for girls and boys Under 12 at the Lee Westwood national finals where she was presented with her prize by the former world number one.
Addie finished last season by winning the Welsh Mini Masters with a round of 35 over nine holes, was then selected for the Wales nursery squad and, although the youngest female, is fully supported by Wales National Coach Neil Matthews.
“Addie is a great example of what can happen, coming from a family who do not play golf but there is now a structure in Wales that can help support and develop talent to provide the expertise to take someone through,” explained Golf Union of Wales director of development Hannah Fitzpatrick.
It is quite story for Addie, who is now at school at Christ’s College, Brecon, but it all started by chance. Dad Tom is a former rugby player, but there were no golfers in the family.
“Someone I work with asked me to drop some papers off for her at Alice Springs golf club, the first time I had ever been to a golf club in my life,” explained Tracey. “She was at the driving range, Addie could see ladies hitting balls and asked if she could have a go. James Morgan, the pro there at the time, heard and offered a little club.
“Even then she was tall for her age so she could hit the balls and he asked where she played. I said she had never picked up a club before, so he joked that we should take her back and we might have a Welsh champion one day!
“I would drive past the golf club and Addie would ask to stop, so I did take her back. She started with plastic clubs and Tri-Golf, and then entered the Welsh Mini Masters at Rhondda golf club where she met Ellen Jones and Zoe Thacker from Golf Development Wales.
“She won that and then won at Celtic Manor so she was on their radar. The advice was to keep it fun and to keep playing other sports, the help from Golf Development Wales and her coach John MacDonald at Celtic Manor is really important.
“Last year was her most successful year, picked for the British junior golf tour, going out to America last July and she has the chance to go out there again this summer.
“We have had an invite to the European championships in Scotland, but the most important thing is still to keep it fun.
“Having started at Alice Springs she now plays at Monmouthshire in Abergavenny where she often plays with Irene Dodd, the junior organiser, who is 84. They make quite a pair as they walk off down the fairway chatting away.
“One of the great things about golf is the etiquette and that is something which she has taken into the way she behaves, she is always extremely well-mannered and I think golf etiquette has helped that.”
Having already played some of the great courses of the world in St Andrew’s, Torrey Pines and in Marbella, there is an exciting summer in prospect for Addie, as they look for sponsorship to help fund the travel.
“I think Torrey Pines is my favourite course – not just because of the golf but the surfing beach nearby,” admitted Addie.
Addie is also a county standard hockey player, while also playing netball and for the school cricket team. However golf is the sport which has already taken her to some of the world’s most glamorous spots – and may take her further still.
Golf Development Wales www.golfdevelopmentwales.org
Golf Union of Wales www.golfunionwales.org
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