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England’s Annabell Fuller on turning professional on the Ladies European Tour



Suddenly the water and bunkers were all too evident. Previously unnoticed, they represented a big threat to a life-changing moment.

But Britain’s Annabell Fuller was more than a match for the final hole at Al Madden Golf in Marrakech, Morocco and two months on from birdieing that closing par-five hole, she is now teeing it up with some of the biggest names in women’s golf.

US star Lexi Thompson along with European Solheim Cup players Leona Maguire, Carlotta Ciganda, Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Gemma Dryburgh headline a stellar field in the £3.96m Aramco Saudi Ladies International this week.

Fuller is also in the Riyadh starting line up. It is due reward for emerging as the leading amateur at last December’s Ladies European Tour Qualifying School in Morocco.

The 22-year-old from Surrey finished in a share of fifth place after completing eight of the most important rounds of her life with remarkable consistency.

Fuller need to start her Q School adventure at pre-qualifying with three rounds at the Noria Golf Club in Marrakech. “I honestly went to the first stage thinking I’d go there and just see if I could play good golf,” she told BBC Sport.

“If I didn’t get through it’s just another golf week and I’d go back to college and kind of keep going with life.”

The former English Amateur Stroke Play Champion had one semester left at the University of Florida and this, at the time of LET pre-qualifying, was her main priority.

“It was like stress free golf for a couple of days which was nice,” Fuller said. “I was just hitting it and not really making any big mistakes, so it was just really enjoyable. And having my mum on the bag, I was just very relaxed.”

Fuller won the tournament and breezed into the five round final stage three days later. “I just carried that mindset,” she added. “Let’s just try and make the cut and then I’ll worry about anything that happens after that.”

She had carded an eagle and 24 birdies by the time she reached the closing tee of the fifth round. Her tour card was almost in the bag.

“It was the final hole before I felt properly nervous,” Fuller admitted. “It is not the easiest finishing hole. The drive has bunkers on the right, water on the left and then the approach has water on the right side of the green.”

The potential pitfalls came tumbling out in a stream of consciousness. “Water is there if you want to lay up and there are bunkers on either side of the green,” she said.

“And if you go in one of them you have to worry about the water over the back. I’d never seen the water near the green until that final round.”

So hitting this closing drive was a significant moment. “I said to myself I’m going to try and hit this as hard as I can and the result is going to be what it is going to be,” she added.

Moments after the tee shot spilt the fairway, her caddie mum Oshi was shedding tears of joy, pride and relief. Fuller knocked the approach onto the green and calmly two putted for birdie.

“I was like ‘oh my god, I did it,'” she said. “This is what I’d practiced for and tried my whole life for and then you think ‘how am I going to do this?’ Am I going to turn pro?”

This was an instant dilemma because leaving Florida early is a wrench after successful years playing for the ‘Gators’ while studying English.

She will complete her degree online while seeking the benefits of graduating to the pro ranks. “I said to my coach that if I got my card I would defer it until May and then start playing on the LET,” Fuller explained.

“But I found out when I was at Q School that if I got my card I had to decide by 15 January. So I had to claim my membership and you can only do that as a pro.

“My coach Emily Glaser said ‘this is what we set you up to do – the team is going to miss you, we really want you here but you’ve got to do what is best for you and you’ve got to take the opportunity’.”

Fuller felt the harsh realities of professional life on debut in Kenya last week where she missed the cut by a single stroke. Now she heads to Saudi Arabia for the LET’s most valuable event.

“If I make the cut that will be useful for me,” she smiled. “My dad has saved up my whole life for this moment and I have some sponsors and help from people who want to support me.

“Hopefully if I do well in the first few tournaments it will take the pressure off.

“It is daunting that every shot, every putt, every mistake I make is going to effectively cost me and it will cost me more than a couple of points in the amateur world ranking,” she said.

“It’s bigger consequences. I’m trying to stay with the mindset that if I do well I will be more rewarded and have more opportunities to do other things.”

Fuller draws inspiration from the careers of fellow English stars Hall and Hull who have long been established on the LPGA Tour. “I saw them when I was growing up and playing with my sister (Samantha).

“Seeing that they’ve got there, I’m trying to follow their path.”

She does not lack perspective and notes the words of an American Ryder Cup star. “Max Homa said ‘Golf’s a crazy game. You’re one swing away from winning the Masters and one swing away from wanting to quit the game’

“And it is so true,” Fuller said. “My goal personally is to keep enjoying playing and make sure I don’t think too much about the money.

“I’ve said to my Dad I’ll try three years and try not to think about it as much as possible and we’ll assess after three years and see if I’ve taken all his money,” she laughed.

More seriously, her ambitions befit a player who competed three times for Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup. “I’m really excited, I’m looking forward to seeing how tour life is,” she said.

“Ideally, coming close to rookie of the year would be amazing. You’ve only got one go at that.”

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