Sally Watson was playing for Scotland's national under-16 basketball team when her hoops career was ended by a knee injury. No problem. Now Watson, 15, is on Scotland's national golf squad.
Watson, No. 22 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings, doesn't live in Scotland anymore, though. She moved to Bradenton, Fla., in September to attend the IMG-David Leadbetter Golf Academy on scholarship.
She won the 2005 Scottish Girls' Championship and was runner-up in the 2006 British Girls' Junior. She's acquired a solid resume in her short time in the United States.
Watson, who has played less than 10 tournaments in the U.S., finished fourth at last week's Harder Hall Invitational, one of the top amateur tournaments in the U.S., 12th at the Junior Orange Bowl Dec. 30 and third at the Doral-Publix Junior Golf Classic Dec. 23. She also advanced to the third round of the U.S. Girls' Junior and finished T-12 at the Rolex Girls Junior, her only AJGA start.
Watson went to Bradenton for a summer camp in 2003. After that, she started travelling to the academy five weeks per year, spending school holidays working with her instructor, Kevin Collins.
Watson comes from an athletic family, which helped her succeed in golf, despite what was a less-than-perfect golf swing. Her father, Graham, is a scratch golfer, while sister Rebecca will play for Tennessee in the fall. Her mother and uncles all played field hockey.
Watson started playing for Scotland's national basketball team in late 2003. She tore her right anterior cruciate ligament when she quickly changed direction to recover a turnover while playing a Christmas tournament with her club team. She was allowed to return to the team one month later. In her first game back, she re-injured her knee while dribbling.
"I became more scared ... to drive to the basket, so I just wasn't playing as well," Watson said. "It was ... the knee injury that pushed me towards playing golf full-time."
This year, Watson led Scotland to its first win in the Girls' Home Internationals - a competition between Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales – in eight years. One of Watson's teammates was 14-year-old Carly Booth, who represented Europe in this year's Junior Ryder Cup and also recently moved to Bradenton.
Booth has received a lot of publicity in Scotland ever since she paired as an 11-year-old with two-time major champion Sandy Lyle to win the British Masters pro-am. Booth and Watson were both recognized as "Names of the Future" of Scottish women's golf in a recent article in The Scotsman, the country's national newspaper. In December, they became two of the youngest girls ever named to a Great Britain & Ireland squad when they were selected for a 15-player team that will train for a pair of international competitions later this year.
The Girls' Home Internationals ended three days before the British Girls' Junior. Watson was "knackered" (Scottish slang for tired) during the British Girls', but made it to the championship match against Belen Mozo despite not playing a practice round. Mozo also won last year's British and European amateurs and will play for USC this spring, but had to get up-and-down on the final hole of the British Girls' to beat Watson, 1 up.
It's no surprise Watson made it through the grueling week at the British Girls' while running on fumes. Collins said Watson is one of the most competitive girls he's come across, but that's not all that makes her successful. She's also one of the most intuitive.
"I ask tons of questions, which probably gets on his nerves sometimes," Watson said, "but he has to deal with me."
Collins made major changes to Watson's swing when they first started working together. She used to turn her right hip too steep on her downswing while her head and weight would stay on her right side, causing her to flip at the ball.
"It kind of looked a mess," Watson said.
Her swing has been sound the past year-and-a-half, Collins said. Watson's ballstriking carried her through this past year, so she's spent her four months in the States expanding her short game repetoire and learning how to play on new types of grass.
Competitors in the U.S. are quickly learning about Watson, too.