My whole life I have worked for this, says Ireland's newest golf star
New Irish golf sensation has admitted that her brilliant performance at the US Open has yet to fully sink in.
Stephanie Meadow (22), originally from Jordanstown, turned professional just last week and already she has claimed third place in the notoriously difficult US Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
She began playing at the age of seven at Ballyclare Golf Club.
The determined young golfer would often get her dad Robert to drive her there in the morning before school at 6.30am.
From there she became a member of the Royal Portrush Golf Club. At the age of 14, the former Belfast High School student moved with her parents, who are now both retired, to America where she attended Hank Hainey Junior International Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island.
She earned a four-year scholarship at the University of Alabama where she smashed multiple records and won nine tournaments. Proving an all-rounder, she showed excellence in the classroom as well, graduating with the equivalent of a first class honours in her accountancy degree. At the weekend, she finished three shots behind US Open winner Michelle Wie, with prize money of more than $270,000.
"I don't think it's really sank in yet,” Stephanie told the Belfast Telegraph:
"It's been kind of hectic figuring what I'm going to play in next but definitely it was a great experience and I couldn't have asked for a better start to my professional career.
"The Irish Ladies Golf Union have always supported me so I wouldn't be even close to where I am without all the support from back home, and also my coaching team over here as well."
She added: "My whole life I've worked for this.
"I was asked do I feel pressure, but honestly, I've always dreamed of turning pro and it was just so nice to be able to go out there and play for money and be on the professional scene and play for a crowd.
"It wasn't really pressure, it was more just like, 'Ok, I can finally do this.'"
Her dad said he had to "pinch" himself to realise what's happened.
"It's really incredible what she has done," he said. "I felt when she was very young she had a great deal of possibility for the future ahead of her and she has done it in her first tournament as a professional, it is just an immense achievement against the top ladies in the world.
"We are just so proud of her."
The 22-year-old's success was the talk of her former golf clubs yesterday.
Thomas McIntyre (27), assistant professional at Ballyclare Golf Club, played along with Stephanie when she was a junior member.
He said: "She had a good idea what she wanted to do from a young age.
"Every time she was playing different tournaments it didn't seem to faze her."
PGA assistant golf professional at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Charlene Reid (26), said it was "incredible", adding: "For her first professional tournament, to finish in the top three is unbelievable.
"She was very motivated and determined – so it wasn't a surprise."