Scotland's Heather MacRae has earned a golfing goal to help hasten her recovery from cervical cancer surgery by winning the Women's PGA Championship for a second time.
Victory in the Titleist and FootJoy-sponsored tournament at Trentham has guaranteed her a place in the team that will represent Great Britain and Ireland in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup.
The match will be staged in Austin, Texas, in the last week of October, four-and-a-half months after the 35-year-old Scot undergoes an operation to banish the cancer that was diagnosed in March.
The operation is scheduled for June 14 and MacRae explained: “The recovery time from the surgery is eight weeks so the WPGA Cup in October is something to aim for.
“June and July are not going to be great but at least I have something to look forward to.”
The surgery has been rescheduled and the original date would have prevented MacRae from playing at Trentham and booking her place in the WPGA Cup team.
“I thought I would have to rely on a captain’s pick to make the team,” said MacRae, who is attached to Stirling Golf Club and previously won the Women's PGA Championship in 2016.
“But when I realised I would be able to play at Trentham I made it my goal to qualify without needing a pick.”
With four of the five places in the Women's PGA Cup team based on performances in this and last year’s tournaments at Trentham, MacRae was well-placed to qualify having finished second 12 months ago.
That was a result of losing a play-off to Keely Chiericato and MacRae’s disappointment at the time was tangible. Disappointments these days are relative, however.
“I lost two play-offs within days of one another last year, and it was difficult,” she recalled.
“But the last few months have put everything in perspective. I’m still determined, want to hit good shots and get frustrated when I don’t.
“But I don’t feel nervous playing golf after waiting for the results of medical tests and things like that. It’s important because I want to do it well and it means a lot. But it does change your outlook.
“I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support I’ve had from so many people. It has come from friends and family, the golfing world and people I’ve never met before. It’s helped me a lot and kept me as strong as I have been.”
Understandably, that strength wavered as she delivered a moving winner’s acceptance speech at Trentham. Not so on the golf course, especially on the last nine holes of the 36.
Having reached the halfway point on one-under-par, she trailed Wrotham Heath Golf Club’s Hayleigh Tottman by two shots. That remained the gap between them at turn on the second round but while Tottman lost momentum on the back nine, her score slipping from three-under to one-over, MacRae held her nerve.
Unfazed by a double bogey at the par-four ninth, a birdie at the par-five 14th and no further wobbles saw her post a two-under-par total of 144 for the two rounds to finish two shots clear of Ali Gray and Suzanne Dickens and claim the £1,000 first prize.
All of which completed a successful two days for MacRae and her fellow PGA Professional, friend, fourball partner, caddy at Trentham and designated driver to and from Scotland, Craig Lees.
The pair arrived at Trentham having 24 hours earlier qualified for the final of the golfbreaks.com PGA Fourball Championship and MacRae added: “I like to have goals and the tournament is at the end of August, so that’s something else to look forward to.”
MacRae will be captained in the WPGA Cup team by Tracey Loveys and line-up alongside Hazel Kavanagh, Gray and Dickens, who won a play-off with Maria Tully to claim the last of the four places determined by points accumulated in the 2018 and 2019 WPGA Championships. The captain’s pick has yet to be decided.
Leading scores and WPGA Cup qualification points (Maximum 30): H MacRae (Stirling Golf Club) 144 (-2) 24; A Gray (Ormskirk Golf Club) 146 (level) 20.75; S Dickens (Thorpe Wood Golf Club) 146 (level) 12.75; H Kavanagh (Impact Golf) 147 (+1) 13.75; H Tottman (Wrotham Heath Golf Club) 147 (+1) 9.75; S Walton (Belton Park Golf Club) 149 (+3) 5.75; M Tully (Eastbourne Downs) 149 (+3) 12.75.