Ladies Golf Legend – Alison Nicholas MBE
Our guest for this week’s Q&A is MAJOR news! Introducing Alison Nicholas MBE!
It’s fair to say at Noisy HQ, we were pretty chuffed when Alison said she’d love to feature in our Q&A. Alison’s list of golfing achievements at amateur and professional level is incredible.
A Yorkshire Ladies County Champion (1983), British Amateur Stroke Play Champion (1983) to becoming, a major winner!
Alison secured the US Open in (1997) and in the same year, secured the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and Player of the Year. Twice a Solheim Cup Captain – having previously played in 6 Solheim Cups – Alison’s 12 wins on the European Tour, place her 10th in the all-time list. In addition, Alison has 4 LPGA titles with a total of 18 professional wins. We could go on!!!
Given Alison’s success, we were keen to get an insight into what it takes to perform and succeed at the highest level. And of course to share some of the very best insight with parents and junior golfers pursuing golfing success.
What’s your first golfing memory?
Playing a pitch and putt course on holiday in Scarborough at the age of around 10/11 without having picked up a club before.
How did you first get into golf?
I was very involved in sport at school and was very good at tennis. I decided to test myself against some of the best players in the country so I entered the Manchester Open but unfortunately got beaten heavily 6-0 6-0 by a girl who eventually made it to Wimbledon. In essence the idea of taking tennis up for a living was over and my Dad suggested I have a go at golf at the age of 17. That is when I started playing golf even though my only experience was playing that pitch & putt course on holiday at age 10/11.
How soon after taking up golf, did you realise “I’m quite good at this!”
When I started golf I had lessons from the local Professional after my Dad suggested that I have a go at golf. After 6 months of lessons my golf coach turned around to my Dad and said she is going to be very good at this.
Shortly after taking up golf, you enjoyed the success of winning, early, what do you point this down to?
My Mum & Dad were sporty and were very competitive and so they influenced me in that regard. I loved sport at school and relished competing – although that influence gave me that competitive nature I had to practice hard and learn how to win by the mistakes I made.
Who were the earliest influences in your career?
My parents encouraged me, the ladies from the Hallamshire Golf Club and I got inspiration from watching golf on TV seeing Seve, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle play. Ironically I was also given a Nancy Lopez book from the junior organizer at the Hallamshire Golf Club which must have spurred me on – eventually getting the chance to compete against her years later.
How did you find the transition from being an amateur to turning professional?
The transition was fairly easy back in the early 1980’s as the difference between the top amateurs and the Professionals was very similar – this was backed up when I came 5th in my first professional tournament.
What do you see as the main difference between a top amateur and top professional golfer?
Nowadays the standard is very high in the Professional game – to make it on the Professional Tour you need a repeatable swing, a brilliant short game, be able to manage your game & yourself well – be resilient, mentally strong as well as physically fit. Ultimately you need to hit the ball a long way be above average at every aspect of the game whilst enjoying the challenge of the rough & tumble life of competitive golf.
In 1987, you secured your first professional win in the Women’s British Open, what are your memories of your maiden professional title?
I had come second seven times & I wanted to make sure I did not come second again. I was given some advice by Lewine Mair a journalist who wrote for the Telegraph Newspaper which I put into place during the final round. She advised me to embrace the pressure & nerves whilst enjoying the day. This advice helped me get over the line and win for the first time on Tour so it was great strategy to adopt as I tried to fight those feelings before.
In the final round of the 1997 Ladies US Open at Pumpkin Ridge, you held a 4 shot lead against 3 time runner-up, Nancy Lopez going into hole 13. What were your emotions going into the final stretch of holes?
I tried to stay focused on my game and my intention for each shot through the last few holes. Someone in the crowd shouted bury her Nancy bury her which spurred me on to victory, presumably they were hoping those words would upset me but they actually had the opposite effect.
What advice would you give to junior golfers to perform at your best, when under the most pressure?
My advice would be to embrace the pressure and do not fight those feelings acknowledge them – nerves are your friend, welcome them and run with those feelings as they will help you perform to your best.
What advice would you give to parents of golfers have ambitions to pursue a career in golf?
If it is the sibling driving the idea, then parents need to encourage them but the warning is that it is a hard, lonely life and takes a lot of hard work and heartache to make it. You will have to make many sacrifices along the way and you lose more that you win at this game.
Before a child sees a coach, what three tips would you give?
Master the grip and then the game has to be fun, fun, fun – learn by having fun.
Looking back on your career, what are your fondest memories?
My fondest memories are winning the US Open and the victories I experienced as a player, vice-captain and captain of the Solheim Cup. However, I have forged a couple of lifelong friendships through golf and experienced some fabulous moments good and bad through golf.
What’s the best thing about golf?
The discipline needed to make it to the top in golf teaches you all that you need to navigate life reasonably successfully.
Who would be your dream Four-ball?
Seve, Jack Nicklaus, Andy Garcia & Tiger Woods.
Thank you so much Alison, it’s great for us to be able to use our platform to share your insight and expertise, through your amazing career. We certainly hope our junior golfers and parents can use this to help them embark on their own golfing journey and continuing to have fun and enjoy their golf!
If you have some spare time, you can view the highlights of the final round of Alison’s remarkable win here. It is well worth the watch.