County Armagh’s brightest young talent in ladies golf, 14-year-old Annabel Wilson, was this year selected as a member of the Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy – a group of five promising athletes from Northern Ireland.
Last year, Annabel, who is from Lurgan, competed in the World Under-18 Championships in Canada as part of the Irish team. She retained her Irish title in Galway Bay Golf Club in 2015 and she was selected to play for Great Britain and Ireland in the Junior Vagliano trophy in July this year at Malone Golf Club.
The Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy was launched in late 2013 building on Dale Farm’s long standing relationship with the Mary Peters Trust, having supported emerging sporting talent through the ‘Dale Farm Sports Award’ for many years. The Academy supports five local athletes with substantial financial bursaries as well as delivering a professional development programme of mentoring and community outreach.
Annabel said of the programme, “The support of Dale Farm, and also the Mary Peters Trust, has been fundamental in helping me with training and reaching my goals.
“The funding has helped take some of the pressure off the expense of furthering my career by allowing me to purchase new equipment – vital as I continue to grow and become stronger.”
Earlier this year Annabel, along with the four other selected athletes, attended a one-of-a-kind Masterclass in sports psychology, nutrition, competing on an international stage and media management at Ulster Rugby’s Kingspan Stadium earlier this year.
The Masterclass included talks from sports nutritionist Dr Sharon Madigan, Ireland’s leading sports psychologist Dr Mark Elliott, sports journalist Jim Gracey and motivating sessions from Ulster Rugby Scrumhalf Paul Marshall and Paralympic Gold Medallist Kelly Gallagher.
Annabel added, “The Masterclass was really helpful and informative and it was fantastic to meet the other members of the Academy too. Getting to speak with professionals such as Kelly Gallagher one on one was a dream come true, I already feel like it has helped to boost my determination in achieving my goals.”
As well as providing crucial funding to rising talent, supporting a healthy lifestyle has always been fundamental to Dale Farm’s ethos, and Dr Sharon Madigan’s talk on nutrition emphasised the importance of following a good eating plan tailored to the needs of each individual, both pre-season and during competition time. In particular, Annabel includes dairy as a vital part of her own diet.
“Following the right diet ensures that you maintain good energy levels, concentration and focus, which is especially important during competition time. Dairy is a key component in my diet – it helps to build strong bones and maintain my calcium levels, and is crucial in my sport.”
Annabel, who is coached by Peter Martin, has the long term goal of playing on the LPGA Tour. Her advice to other young aspiring golfers is, “Practice, practice, practice. If you are determined to succeed in your sport then you need to be positive, train hard and spend time perfecting your technique. It is also amazing the difference it makes to have a good coach and a supportive team behind you.”
The Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy in partnership with Mary Peters’ Trust, is gearing up to launch for 2015/16 applications this Autumn.