Royal Cromer ace Ratcliffe ready for a testing year ahead

Amber Ratcliffe is relishing the prospect of testing herself against the cream of Europe's under-21 golfers when she tees it up in the French Lady Junior Championship in April – and it's not the only big examination she will face this year.

The 16-year-old Royal Cromer ace has been picked for the England team who will compete at St Cloud, near Paris, and is hoping it provides the perfect springboard for a successul year both on and off the fairways.

As well juggling a busy playing schedule the teenager, who plays off plus one, is in her GCSE year at Sheringham High School and has decided to make the trip across the Channel her only competitve outing until after her exams.

'I will keep training and practicing and when my exams are out of the way I'll be ready to go. It's a little bit daunting but I'm looking forward to an exciting year,' said Ratcliffe, who is making the most of the close season and who trains for at least an hour every night. 'I'm trying to get everything right. I'm making a minor swing change at the moment but I'm always working on my game, It's an all year round thing. I'm trying to get my swing back on plane. I was getting the club too far behind my hands in the takeaway which was causing me to hit the ball left and I want to hit them straight. It wasn't all the time but it could be a destructive shot. As well as my swing I'm working on other areas of my game including my fitness and I'm looking to sharpen up my short game.'

There's no doubt that the competition in Paris will be a step up from what Ratcliffe is used to but since the end of last year she has been a member of the top-ranked English women's training squad and so knows what to expect.

'This will be the third time that I have represented England,' said Ratcliffe, who also represented England in the winning team at the Scottish U16 championship and at the European Young Masters.

'I'm in the elite squad and so I'm used to competing against more experienced players. I'm certainly not intimidated by the competition and I hit it just as far as any of them,' added Ratcliffe, who regularly smashes it 280 yards off the tee.

Most Read

'We're all off to Spain in February for some warm weather training at La Manga. I'm really looking forward to it as it's where the European Tour Qualifying School takes place and it will be a good experience to play around there for the future.'

That's not to say Ratcliffe has thoughts of turning pro any time soon, she's still got plenty she wants to achieve in the amateur ranks before then.

'There's still a lot I want to achieve as an amateur,' said Ratcliffe, who retained the East region women's title – with a course record – and the South East Schools championship last year.

'I would like to win the Ladies British Open and the English Ladies title, and there are also titles I still want to win as a junior.

'I didn't play as well as I had hoped in the English Girls chmampionship. I finished eighth but I was absolutely shattered from having played with England the week before over six rounds in Hungary. It wasn't the ideal preparation but I never expected to get picked to play for England and you don't turn down the chance to play for your country.'

On a local scene Ratcliffe will also look to repeat the success she had last year when she won the Norfolk ladies' title, and topped the county ladies' and girls' orders of merit.