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INTERVIEW: Rachel Connor exclusive

Off the course, I like to keep fit and I work out four or five times a week. I also love  shopping – show me a girl who doesn’t! – and I relax by listening to R&B music and taking regular trips to the movies.

How did you get into golf?
Golf clubs were in my house from the day I was born but I think the first time that I really got the bug was when I was over in the States with my family playing casual golf with our old friends Ennis, Roger, Marcus and Nick Dougherty.

I was about 10 at the time and I just loved being around the pros on the driving range, watching them work the ball and develop their swings. I met Karen Stupples and we had a long chat.

After that I thought: ‘This is what I want to do. This is where I want to be.’

What was your first 18-hole score and how does that differ to your best?
It was for my handicap and I shot 118, resulting in a 45 handicap! The carries at Manchester are pretty tough but just six years later I set the ladies course record at the club with a fourunder 70.

During tour school I shot my career low in competitive golf of a 69 which was three under.

How does it feel to have sealed a spot on the Futures Tour and how tough was Q School?
Absolutely fantastic! Qualifying was hard. Believe me when I say that all 292 of the girls at the school can play. It was really hard to watch dreams being made and shattered all over a five-day period.

I played well in the first three rounds but I came off the course after day three feeling absolutely exhausted. Day four was the killer for me – the fourth round lasted just over six hours! Now a six-hour round is hard enough to take when you are walking around the golf course but during tour school players have to ride on buggies.

The combination of heat and time really affected me. By the time the final day was through I was relieved it was over.

I was one of the youngsters at tour school because the majority of players there were in their final year at college making them about 22. At 19 I think I showed my inexperience at times – but I have learned from the experience.

 I know that I can compete with these girls, now I know what I need to do.

What are your targets for your first year on tour?
I want to be right up there winning tournaments, making cuts and gaining exemption for the Futures Tour in 2011.

How do you plan to improve?
More of the same at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy – I’ve only had 12 weeks there and I know I have so much more to learn.

I have heard it said that players learn more in a year on the Futures Tour than in all their previous years of playing golf. They don’t call it the ‘Road to
the LPGA’ for nothing. I think that in playing competitive golf I will gain my biggest improvement.

What is it like working with David Leadbetter?
David has produced more quality players than I have had hot dinners and it is a privilege to be under his tutelage. David and his staff have the interests of the pupils at heart.

They have a winning formula but also look after the individual. During my time at the academy, my swing is regularly monitored and I have noticed a massive improvement.

I also love the holistic approach to golf at DLGA to make sure we are trained as athletes, looking after nutritional requirements and paying attention to mental conditioning as well. Athletes are also prepared for a possible future in the limelight of international golf and we are given coaching to help us with this process.

Talk us through a typical day..
I am working with students on the post-graduate programme and every week we get a timetable which gives structure to each day. A typical day will include 18 holes of golf at one of 10 courses in the Bradenton area with an 0720 tee-off.

Then we have an hour of shortgame practice, an hour putting and an hour on the long game. After a 30-minute break we then do 90 minutes in IMG Academy Athletic & Personal Development programs(Athletic & Personal Development program). Coach Trevor Anderson takes us through a range of exercises including speed/agility conditioning and in-season weight training that is relative to golf.

It’s a five-day week at the Academy and we have weekends off or play in tournaments.

Is all this hard work paying off?
Absolutely, the work has already begun again in earnest. By March I know that I will be ready.

How does playing in America differ from the UK?
I have always loved playing golf in the States. For one, the weather is so much better. I also love the positivity – this is a ‘you can do it’ nation and although I love playing golf in Europe I have always been drawn to America.

The standard of golf is very high and I feel that if I want to make it as a world-class golfer this is where I need to be.

Do you miss home at all?
I love the life in America. I haven’t really had a chance to miss my family because we are in daily contact and my parents and youngest brother Nick came out during tour school. I have to say that I do miss the food at home though!

How many of your idols have you met in the States?
I’m still working on the Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa connection! I haven’t seen Christina Kim this year but I have spent some time with her in the past at the DLGA Academy at Champions Gate in Orlando – she’s good fun.

Paula Creamer will be working at the Leadbetter Academy so I hope to be able to meet up with her at some point – that would be cool.

What is the strongest part of your game?
My ball striking. Putting a good strike on the ball is really important for my consistency. Knowing that you have the right club in your hand when you only have 10 feet between the pin and a water hazard is key to keeping high scores off the card.

What were the highlights of your amateur career?
Representing England from the age of 14 to 19 at both junior and senior level was a huge honour for me. One of my proudest moments was winning the Royal Birkdale Scratch – I was a junior member at Birkdale and it is still one of my favourite courses in the world. Lancashire is my home county so it was great to win on home territory.

Who is your idol and why?
I admire Tiger Woods for his sheer power and game tenacity, David Leadbetter for his contribution to golf, Lorena Ochoa for her rise from Duramed Futures Tour to No 1 in the world and Paula Creamer who I feel is a great player and ambassador for the game. But I also love to watch players like Christina Kim who I feel has a great, fun approach to golf.

What is your ultimate goal?
To play on the LPGA and or the LET.

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