A young golfer is on course to play stateside after winning a prestigious national competition and securing a scholarship to study overseas.
Katie Stephens, from Stokesley, scooped the overall top spot at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Open Championships – a series of hotly contested tournaments for college students from around the country.
The 18-year-old, who is currently in her second year of a Sport and Exercise Science course at Middlesbrough College, beat scores of other golfers at the most recent competition in Trentham, helping her secure the overall Championship title.
And Katie’s drive is set to take her all the way to South Carolina on a sought-after four-year scholarship at Charleston Southern University where she hopes to specialise in sports psychology or nutrition.
Katie said: “I’m really excited about moving to America but I’m also quite nervous. My mum is going to come with me for two weeks to help me settle in.
“I’ll definitely miss my home comforts, but this is everything I’ve been working towards. My dream is to be a professional golfer – at any level – and this is the next step on that journey.
“I dedicate everything to this sport. I practice every other day and play in as many competitions as I can, alongside my studies.
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Playing off a +2 handicap, Katie is guided by Middlesbrough College Golf Academy coach James Atthey, who is the golf professional attached to Stokesley Golf Range.
She added: “The College’s Golf Academy is one of the main reasons I chose to study here.
“James is the best coach around and I feel incredibly lucky that I get the support I need to be able to play alongside my studies.
“If it wasn’t for the College or James, I probably wouldn’t be heading to South Carolina in the summer.”
Middlesbrough College’s Sports Academies offer specialist coaching to develop sporting excellence, nurture talent and aid personal development.
The College launched its sports academies programme in 2012 and now operates academies in seven different sports.
The academies are staffed with ex-professional players and national coaches who have all played at the top level in the UK or abroad and now pass on their skills to more than 130 students.
At the College’s Golf Academy, students are afforded access to the same level of technology and learning that golf professionals use.
Katie joins the ranks of other Middlesbrough College golfers who have gone on to find success, including Michael Hay who travelled from Middlesbrough to Miami to study at Nova Southeastern University.
James Atthey said: “Katie has been a model Golf Academy member for the past two years, both in squad sessions and when representing the College.
“She has a first-class attitude, always giving 100% when training and is hungry to learn and improve.
“She’s had some excellent results this year and it’s been a pleasure having her as part of our squad.
“We wish Katie all the best in her US golf scholarship”