SALLY Watson's success in qualifying for the US Women's Open – the second time she's secured a spot in a major – is unlikely to hasten the talented Scottish amateur into the professional ranks before the end of her four-year stint at Stanford University.
"Preparing yourself (to become a professional] is a marathon, not a sprint, so I don't see any rush," the 18-year-old freshman told The Scotsman from California after securing one of four places up for grabs at Oakmont in a field of just under 90 for one of the qualifiers on Monday.
"The most important thing for me at the moment is that I am continuing to improve and there are still huge things I'd like to achieve as an amateur, such as winning the British Amateur and US Amateur titles. You can't turn back the clock after you've made that decision (to turn professional] so let's see how good I can be as an amateur before I think about making that move."
The Edinburgh-born player – her family now live in Elie – tied for 50th after getting into the Ricoh Women's British Open at St Andrews in 2007 and also finished in the top 20 when she played in the Ladies' Scottish Open at The Carrick the same year. Now she's earned another chance to test herself against some of the world's leading players and, after shooting rounds of 71 and 79 at Corral de Tierra Country Club south of Monterey to earn a US Women's Open berth in Pennsylvania on 8-11 July, she couldn't wait to break the good news to her parents, Graham and Maggie.
"It was 3am when the phone call came through and, as you'd imagine, she was quite excited," revealed Graham, who caddied for his daughter in that historic women's event over the Old Course. "She was also totally exhausted, having just come back from playing in the NCAA Championships on the east coast."
The travelling is set to continue as the Elie & Earlsferry Ladies player, who won the Scottish Girls' title in 2005 before adding the British stroke-play equivalent two years later, has an exciting few weeks ahead of her on both sides of the Atlantic.
She'll make a second Curtis Cup appearance for Great Britain & Ireland in Massachusetts in just over a fortnight before coming home to spearhead the Scottish challenge in the Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship at Ganton.
Watson then returns to America at the beginning of July for the US Women's Open, comes home again to try to qualify for the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale and, in August, is likely to receive invitations for both the Ladies' Irish Open at Kileen Castle and the Scottish equivalent at Archerfield Links.
"I'm super excited," she said of her appearance in the US Women's Open. "I've played in a couple of USGA events in the past and they are run fantastically well. It's been a crazy spell – I worked out that I've played 18 holes every day for nine or ten days – but a lot of fun, though I now have to try and cram a lot of school work into the next few days as I'm finishing school two weeks early (so that she can meet up with her Great Britain & Ireland team-mates when they fly in to Boston on 1 June to prepare for the Curtis Cup]."
Watson, who will turn 19 on the Saturday of the US Women's Open, won't now be able to play for Scotland in the European Ladies' Team Championship as it takes place at the same time in Spain, but she will be available for the World Team Championship in Argentina later in the year.
"She sounded very tired so I don't think she'll be picking up a golf club over the next few days," added her father, who is no doubt that Sally's decision to first of all spend some time at the IMG Academy at Bradenton in Florida before heading across to the west coast of America to start at Stanford has helped her game improve enormously.
"Her closing 66 was a major milestone in her career but, with 89 players in the field for her US Women's Open qualifier, it was a tall order," he noted. "She's quite good, though, in a situation where she has to put her mind to something. She can dig deep."
Watson, who is coached by Kevin Collins, an American based at the David Leadbetter Academy at Bradenton, will join Ricoh Women's British Open champion Catriona Matthew, among 68 players exempt from qualifying and the first to file her entry for the event, in the field at Oakmont.