Royal Cromer golfer Amber Ratcliffe decides to take professional plunge
- Credit: IAN BURT
Norfolk youngster Amber Ratcliffe has decided to turn professional after a promising display at Tour School in Morocco just before Christmas.
The 18-year-old from Royal Cromer missed out on a place in the top 30, which would have enabled her to play most of the top events on the European women's professional circuit in 2014 – but she did enough to secure limited access to the big time.
And rather than returning to the relative security of the amateur game she has now decided to join the paid ranks and take up the challenge of playing in the second tier Access Series, with hopefully a couple of full European Tour events thrown in.
It was by no means an easy decision – but Amber's father Byron is convinced it is the right way forward for the talented teenager, who has been a major player on the amateur scene in England for some time now.
'It was a case of sitting down with Amber and weighing up the pros and cons of turning professional,' he said.
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'By staying as an amateur she could have tried to make the Great Britain team for the Curtis Cup, which is being held in the United States in 2014, while there was also the World Amateur Championships to look forward to.
'But Amber just felt she had achieved a lot of her targets in the amateur game and was ready for a new challenge – so we have just informed the European Tour that she will be taking up her category 9B status.
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'We have had a good look at it and reckon she will be able to get into a couple of events next season. For the rest of the time she will be playing in the Access Series, which is similar to the Challenge Tour in the men's game. She will be competing at a good level and is confident she can give a good account of herself. She did well as an amateur in the Access Series event at Stoke by Nayland last year and hopefully she can build on that in 2014.'
Having made the big decision Amber will now be looking to make it pay, having received some financial backing from England Golf as an amateur.
'They paid for her to compete in some top events, and the family are very grateful for all the support Amber received,' said her father.
'We also had to help her along the way – and that will also be the case now she has turned professional. But if you play well in the Access Series you can earn enough to cover your costs and that is the aim.
'Amber is ready to step up to the next level and showed in Morocco that she could compete against professionals. The main focus now will be to make sure she is ready for the start of the season in March.'
Amber gave a good account of herself at Tour School, with her chances of earning full exemption for 2014 effectively being scuppered by just one poor round.
The Norfolk youngster got her campaign off to a steady start with a 72 but it all went wrong on day two, with a disappointing 81 which featured a quadruple bogey nine, leaving her well down the field.
Needing a positive response just to make the cut, Amber then showed what she was made of with consecutives 70s – which could have been even better had a few more putts dropped - to book her a place on the final day.
She started the fifth and final round at the Samanah Golf and Country Club at Marrakech needing a sub-70 round to stand any chance of making it into the top 30 but in the end the challenge proved beyond her, with a 76 leaving her seven shots adrift of the mark and in a tie for 52nd position.