Alex Keighley is a name that is well known to Huddersfield golfers.
Not only through her considerable golfing talents, but as one of the country’s few female club professionals – for which she has won an award.
She is also building an increasingly high profile as a coach.
What many local golfers do not know, however, is that the world’s Press turned their attention on the diminutive then 21-year-old when she briefly shot to international fame by leading the world’s finest golfers in the Women’s British Open.
At the age of 11 Alex got her first set of clubs for Christmas and joined Lightcliffe Golf Club, just down the road from home.
Her connection with Huddersfield Golf Club began the following year when the talented youngster wasted no time in winning the Junior Open at Fixby and then visited the club for Yorkshire coaching.
Just three years later she was a part of the Yorkshire and England training set up, playing in national competitions, lining up with the country’s finest players – and her career snowballed.
Alex decided not to go to university but her mum insisted she took A levels. After that she took three years out to play full-time, financed with a national lottery grant and part-time work in a pub.
She was playing for Yorkshire, England, Great Britain and Ireland, won the Yorkshire championship twice and England Under 23 strokeplay championship. She also had several top-five finishes in European tournaments.
Highlight of Alex’s playing career, however, was her dream performance in the 2003 Weetabix Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
She recalls the magical event: “I went through two stages of qualifying to get through, I took it all with a pinch of salt and didn’t expect much.
“Monday qualifying was at Fairhaven, where I shot three-under to qualify. I had my pal from my younger days, Richard Anderson, caddying for me. That’s where my dream week started – I had nowhere to stay, but I had made it to the Open!
“On the last practice day I practised next to my hero, Annika Sorenstam; what a treat that was.
“On Day One I enjoyed the whole morning and, with no expectations, I went out and shot 70. Nothing went wrong, I holed everything.
“I came down the 18th with thousands watching and I was leading the Open!
“It was crazy when I got off the course, there were Press interviews galore. My sister didn’t even know I was playing until the next day when she saw me on the back page of the Telegraph.
“On Day Two I had a very different attitude. I wasn’t prepared for it and missed the cut by one shot.”
Ever-positive, Alex, now 32, added: “I did learn a lot that week. I knew it’s what I wanted to do for a career and so that’s what I did. I went to Tour School full of confidence and got my card first time – full playing rights on the European Tour.”
Alex played on the Tour for five years and loved every minute of it. She said: “I never made much money but had a good go.”
During that time she took PGA qualifications and got the job as assistant professional at Fixby.
She added: “I did love being at home and realised I couldn’t make a career out of playing. I had started to teach a few people and so built a client base. I really enjoy teaching and passing on any tips I’ve picked up on the way.”
She still plays in a few competitions and won the Ladies’ British Club Professional Championship in 2012, but definitely has no plans to go back on tour.
She said: “Teaching and working at Huddersfield Golf Club is where my heart is.”
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