Ireland’s Paula Grant knows golf lasts a lifetime, but it’s not life

SCARSDALE, NY - JUNE 08: Paula Grant of Great Britian & Ireland celebrates after a birdie putt on the 18th green during four-ball matches on day one of the 2018 Curtis Cup at Quaker Ridge Golf Club on June 8, 2018 in Scarsdale, New York. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/R&A/R&A via Getty Images) Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Ireland’s Paula Grant knows golf lasts a lifetime, but it’s not life

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Ireland’s Paula Grant knows golf lasts a lifetime, but it’s not life

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Paula Grant works as an optometrist in Belfast. While most of her fellow competitors at the Curtis Cup have never worked for a paycheck, 24-year-old Grant will go back to her day job when this is over. The delightful Irishwoman sees things differently than most this week.

“I’ve tried to embrace it and have fun and not take it too seriously, because it is just golf at the end of the day,” Grant said. “I’ve kind of always had the thought in my head if I had a bad shot, ‘Oh well, you’re better here than at work, sitting testing some eyes.’ ”

The Curtis Cup has become a stepping stone for the next level, a stop on the way to the pro ranks for college and junior hotshots. It has been 10 years since a career amateur competed on an American Curtis Cup team. Megan Bolger, now Stasi, actually got engaged on the Swilken Bridge at the event in 2008.

Grant brings a breath of fresh air and perspective to the amateur competition, a reminder to teenagers full of drive and hope that golf is a game of a lifetime, but not all there is to life.

Walking outside the ropes at Quaker Ridge Golf Club was Danielle McVeigh, a fellow member of Royal County Down Golf Club in Northern Ireland and 2010 Curtis Cup player. McVeigh turned professional in 2011 but got her amateur status back two years later.

McVeigh vividly recalls standing over a putt on one of the islands of Azores off the coast of Portugal thinking that if she made it, she would be able to afford heat and oil back home.

“Needless to say, it was cold in the house,” said McVeigh, who was competing on the LET’s Access Series at the time.

Not just following the crowd

McVeigh believes many golfers turn professional just to follow the crowd. But she’s here to offer that it’s a tough life, one that doesn’t fit everyone. McVeigh, 30, now works in executive leadership and coaching and appreciates having a consistent paycheck.

Two years ago Maria Dunne, then 32, was one of the three Irish players to compete at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in Enniskerry, Ireland. Now pregnant and working for the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, the career amateur played a key role in GB&I’s unlikely victory two years ago. Dunne, like Grant, remains a role model for those who want to compete at the highest level as an amateur but not make golf a financial grind.

Grant won the 2017 Irish Women’s Closed Championship after first capturing the title in ’13. Both Grant and her sister, Laura, won the Irish Girls’ in back-to-back years. Laura quit golf at the age of 18 to pursue a dental degree. Paula knew that both medical school and dental school would take golf out of the picture, so she went to optometry school instead, graduating three years ago.

Big change meant return to golf

For two years Grant worked at Specsavers in Scotland, putting in her qualification time and taking exams in the summer.

After watching her Irish friends win the Curtis Cup at home, Grant decided that she wanted to give herself the best chance to follow their lead. She moved back to Lisburn, Ireland, and began working as a sub, filling in for optometry shops when needed so that she’d have more flexibility in her schedule. The change paid off.

Now that she has achieved the dream, Grant isn’t sure what comes next. Pro golf isn’t entirely off the table.

“Probably go back to work and have a nice regular day job and keep the golf as an amateur,” she said. “It’s more constant income, just more regular and less risky, but it’s not what I love. It’s a bit of a decision that I’m just trying to put off for a while.”

And that’s another thing many can learn from Grant: No need to rush. Gwk

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