Sally Watson, once tipped to be the next big thing in Scottish women’s golf, is quitting the professional game to tee up an “intellectual challenge” at one of the leading business schools in the US.
The 26-year-old from Elie is making her farewell appearance in this week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns before beginning an MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business next month.
“I never necessarily saw golf as something I wanted to do forever, and I think I missed the intellectual environment of university,” said Watson, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Stanford University just over four years ago.
Her academic advisor at Tiger Woods’s alma mater was former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has now helped Watson get into the graduate business school in Illinois with a letter of recommendation.
“I really enjoyed my time at Stanford, the opportunities to challenge yourself I was given there, so I always knew I wanted to go back to school at some point of time,” admitted the two-time Curtis Cup player.
She was speaking after an opening level-par 72 at Kingsbarns and added: “I love playing golf and I love competing, but I have struggled a little bit to see how to be happy being a pro golfer. The lifestyle is a challenge.”
Watson, a former Scottish Girls’ champion, turned pro straight after graduating from Stanford and has been flying the flag for Castle Stuart on the LET over the past four seasons.
She recorded two third-place finishes in 2014, including the Ladies Scottish Open, before matching that effort in the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open the following year.
This year’s threadbare LET schedule has meant playing opportunites have been few and far between, though Watson revealed that has worked in her favour.
“I was able to take the first part of the year off and prepare my applications for business school,” she said.
“They were due in March and the interviews were in April and my dad (Graham, who also caddies for her) was testing me on the golf course, which was good fun.”
As clearly is Watson’s connection with Rice, one of the first two women members admitted to Augusta National in 2013.
“I talked to Condoleeza about my decision,” she said. “Having got to know me at Stanford, she knew school was something I wanted to go back to at some point.
“She also recognised golf has given me a number of experiences and opportunities, and I can continue to use them outside golf, to apply them to other areas of my life.
“She wrote me a letter of recommendation to Chicago, and she said, ‘I’ll give you the first year off and then I’ll come out looking for a game with you’.”