James Rooney picked up his first golf club aged two. At nine, he scored his first hole-in-one, and he had achieved a handicap of five or less while still at school. He now represents the Lancashire Men’s 1st team, travelling extensively to compete across the UK and internationally, and his dedication to golf has been recognised with a Sports Scholarship.
“I only started playing to spend time with my dad,” says James. “He used to take me along to his golf club from the age of two and I just took to it.”
James’ talent was soon spotted and he played in – and won – his first competitive match aged just eight representing West Lancashire Golf Club. What makes this achievement all the more remarkable is that it was an Under 18s tournament, meaning James had to beat golfers in their teens.
He later went on to be crowned Lancashire Boys Golf Champion and compete in the British Boys Championships before progressing through the U14s and U18s to the Men’s team. He was also accepted for an Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE), England Golf’s development programme, which allows aspiring young sportspeople to train at the highest level while gaining qualifications that prepare them for life outside sport.
“My best moment has to be when I won the Lancashire Boys tournament in 2012,” says James. “This year, I qualified for final qualifying for the Open Championship, one of the oldest golf competitions in the world and one of the four exclusive majors. It was weird to know that I was in the same playing field as Vijay Singh a man who has won majors and $80 million in career earnings, while I was there with a tour bag that I got off eBay for £20!
“I’m highly competitive and golf is always a challenge,” adds James. “There’s always one shot you’ve never played before. Each game has different pressures so it keeps you thinking all the time.”
As well as his competitive achievements, James also gives something back to the sport by running coaching sessions for West Lancs Juniors, organising junior club competitions in the school holidays and sitting on the Junior Committee to ensure children get the best out of the club.
“I try to help the kids improve every time they come to the golf club,” says James, “because I was lucky enough to receive that support when I was a junior member. I also want to make their experiences enjoyable so they keep coming back.”
James has brought his passion for golf with him to Edge Hill, and has represented the University in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) golf competition.
“No one played golf at Edge Hill before I came,” recalls James. “I came 20th in the BUCS order of merit out of 130 competitors in 2015, and I’m sure I can improve on that next year when I play more competitions. Now I’m hoping to spread the word and build up a team so that we can be ambassadors for the University.”
As well as introducing golf, James is involved in a range of other sports at Edge Hill including playing for the University badminton team and running No Strings Badminton, a Badminton England initiative to encourage more people to try the sport through non-competitive, fun sessions. As a result he was named Edge Hill’s Sports Personality of the Year 2015.
“It’s very emotional and incredibly rewarding to receive an honour from the University,” says James. “The scholarship will allow me to use the excellent gym facilities here for free so I can improve my fitness and make even more progress.”
James was also recently awarded a scholarship from R&A, golf’s governing body.
“Only about 80 people in the UK who play golf receive these scholarships and I was lucky enough to be one of them,” says James.
“My long-term plan is to qualify for the Walker Cup and turn professional in 2017. These scholarships will definitely help me achieve those goals.”