GOLF: PRO RANKS BECKON; James Nursey on Felicity Johnson's Recipe for Turning Professional - Consistency and a Good Short Game
Byline: James Nursey
Felicity Johnson has so many international golf tournaments in her diary for the next few months it is easy to forget the teenager from Harborne is still only an amateur.
Given the 18-year-old scratch player's meteoric rise in the ladies' game, that fact is likely to change in the future.
But in the meantime, Johnson, who was crowned English ladies' champion at Burnham & Berrow Golf Club in May, is determined to continue her golfing education by gaining valuable experience against the leading amateurs in the world.
Johnson flies to Sweden today as part of the England side for the European team championship.
The golfer, who left school at 16 to devote herself to the sport, is also in the England side to contest the Vagliano Trophy in France later this month and is expected to be named in next year's prestigious Curtis Cup team to face the United States.
All three competitions will give Johnson the chance to pit her skill and wits against top-quality opposition.
If Johnson enhances her reputation by thriving on the big stage, she then plans to turn professional.
'Eventually I want to turn pro,' Johnson said. 'I want to experience the top level amateur stuff and learn from that.
'I don't think the gulf between the amateur and professional game is that huge - it is just about consistency and having a good short game.
'A lot of it is mental, it is important to recover from a bad hole or a bad round. Hopefully I have shown I can do that and I think I could make it as a pro.
'I will probably wait two or three years until I am about 21 before turning pro, though, because I want to play in events like the Curtis Cup.
'I should find out next June or July whether I get in the Curtis Cup team and of course it would be nice.
'I am in a good position and it is definitely something I am aiming for next year but, even if I don't get in, I am not going to hang on as an amateur forever.'
Although golf is an individual sport, Johnson has been fortunate to enjoy considerable support and backing from both the English Ladies' Golf Association (ELGA) and Warwickshire's set-up.
But the biggest influence on Johnson's career has been her mother Jay and stepfather Paul, who is the professional at Harborne.
Johnson's stepfather not only helped develop her game from a young age but also did not stand in her way when she wanted to leave school early to concentrate on golf.
Johnson said: 'My mum and Paul have been a great help to me. When I wanted to leave school at 16 they were fully behind me.
'They knew I didn't enjoy school that much and wanted to concentrate on my golf. Some parents would have told me to stay at school but they were happy for me to go for it and take a chance.'
Two years on, Johnson may not be raking in the prize-money but her brave decision to ditch her studies and focus on golf appears to be paying off.
She is the national champion and her potential has been recognised by Tiger Woods' former coach Butch Harmon, who invited the teenager to his golf academy in America for free tuition. …