Becoming the newest recruit to the Scottish professional ranks is yet to sink in for Hannah McCook due to the fact her part-time job as a cleaner is having to take priority over a full-time golf career for the time being.
“It doesn’t feel much different at the moment,” admitted the 25-year-old, who announced her switch to the paid game over the festive season on the back of her most successful season as an amateur.
“In fact, I was back to work on Monday morning doing my cleaning,” she added, laughing.
By the sounds of things, McCook’s colleagues at Sportscotland’s Glenmore Lodge didn’t expect to see her back there after she’d revealed she was turning pro. It’s not easy trying to make headway as a professional, though, without any significant sponsorship, so the Grantown-on-Spey woman will be continuing to get her hands dirty – literally – until the golf season starts in earnest.
“I’ve been cleaning at Glenmore Lodge since I graduated [from the University of Stirling] in October 2015. I do Monday to Friday in the mornings and it is very flexible, thankfully,” said McCook. “When I walked in on Monday, I must have had three people saying, ‘I didn’t think you’d be back’. However, I said that I need to be back and I will probably be here more the next three months.”
McCook, who recorded back-to-back victories in the Welsh and Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championships last summer, decided it was time to take the plunge despite the Ladies European Tour offering sparse opportunities for players at the moment.
“While it doesn’t feel much different and will only probably hit me when I play in my first professional event, it is exciting,” she said. “Turning professional was on my mind all last season, really, and I played well enough at the Tour School [she dug deep to come through a pre-qualifier before finishing joint-60th in the final in Morocco last month] to get a category which will hopefully get me into a couple of events on the main tour but all the events on the Access Series. That was the deciding factor, really.
“It’s the equivalent of the Challenge Tour for the ladies, so it is definitely a step up from the amateur game. I spoke to my parents and also my coach, Dave Torrance. Clare Queen and David Patrick [Scottish Golf’s performance director and ladies’ national coach respectively] were part of the decision as well, both encouraging me to go for it.
“I have definitely taken a lot of confidence from knowing that I could win on the amateur circuit. There’s only so long that you can wait and last season made me decide it was definitely time for me to move on, play in what I can and see how I get on.”
Ironically, McCook had arrived at her golfing crossroads just as she was selected for the first time for a Great Britain & Ireland women’s squad, having been picked along with four fellow Scots in a provisional pool for this year’s Vagliano Trophy match against the Continent of Europe at Royal St George’s.
“That was nice, bit it’s just unfortunate that it came as I was about to move on to the pro ranks,” she said. “The Access Series schedule is not out yet, but I’ve been looking at the Sunshine Tour schedule in South Africa and I might go there for a couple of events, which would be good.
“I’ve worked with Dave Torrance, who is the new pro at Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore, for the past 11 years and felt that last year I was generally more consistent. My scoring average has got better and my putting has also improved dramatically in the past 12 months.”
McCook was diagnosed as a type-1 diabetic at the age of eight and has to monitor and manage her condition on a daily basis. “Before a round, I have to make sure my blood sugar levels are stable,” she said. “In one way that takes my head away from the golf a little bit, but at the same time it is more to worry about. It definitely spurs me on more, though, to show it can’t stop you doing what you want to do.”