Ellie Gower is ready to start college in America boosted by her latest stint ‘inside the ropes’ as a teenage caddie on the Ladies’ European Tour.
The 17-year-old England girls’ squad member is preparing to take the next step up the golfing ladder when she flies out next month to start her studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
For Gower (now living just outside Perth, Scotland and a member of the foundation at Gleneagles), it’s a natural step to make.
What is out of the ordinary, though, is how she has prepared for the January move.
Gower has recently returned from the Spanish Open where she caddied for English pro Ellie Givens.
The pair struck up an unlikely friendship purely by accident five years ago at a time when Gower – then living in France with her family – was relaxed about golf as a hobby let alone a career.
The chance encounter with Givens at the 2014 Lacoste Ladies’ Open near Biarritz changed the youngster’s focus.
In the space of the next four years, Gower was transformed from a 36 handicapper into an England international playing off a handicap of +2.
Now she’s packing her bags in anticipation of her move to the States on 6 January.
Gower’s route has been unconventional, but what it has done is given her a unique insight into the dream career she’s chasing once her college days and England Golf challenges are over.
“I’m just back from Spain having caddied for Ellie in the Spanish Open and that was good fun,” admitted Gower, pictured below with her mentor and friend.
“It’s good being inside the ropes and watching how they practice and how they do their course planners and all the things you wouldn’t normally see in any detail.
“You also discover you’re not a million miles away at times. Myself and Ellie hit it the same distances now and so when she asked me in Spain what I thought – eight iron or nine iron – I was able to say nine!
“I can now help her read putts too which is great.
“I didn’t know what I was going into at first. I was only 12 but everyone on tour has been great.
“When I first started doing it, I was little Ellie and she was big Ellie.
“Know I’m taller than her so it’s become a joke.
“I realise it’s a privileged position to be in and so I’m trying to learn as much as I can and put it to good use in my game.
“I only started watching Ellie at that first event because we had the same name.
“At the end she came up and had a chat and I was like ‘wow’.
“We kept in touch through Facebook and the next year she asked me to caddie for her at that event.
“I was 12 when I first caddied. The first year I did she came 11th so I must have done alright.
“I’ve caddied for five years running and it’s been amazing.
“Moving to college in America now is a bit scary, but my mum is coming out with me for the first week.
“I chose Colorado because got on really well with the coach and there was an instant connection.
“There are also two girls there from past England squads – Issy Simpson and Sophie Johnson.
“I know them both and they are really nice and that makes me feel more comfortable.
“The ultimate dream is to play on the LPGA Tour so we’ll see how it goes.”
Given that dad Brian is a qualified PGA pro and her parents moved the family to France when Ellie was a toddler to buy their own golf course, you would assume Ellie was destined for a career in the sport.
However, Gower showed no real desire to play until the meeting with Givens proved a lightbulb moment.
She added: “When I was three my parents bought a nine-hole course – Golf de Barthe near Bergerac – and I’ve always been around golf.
“I wasn’t really that interested in it. My dad took me and my sister on the range and when he wasn’t looking we’d just throw the balls away to save us hitting them!
“My dad saw I had potential, but I wasn’t that interested.
“Then he took me to the event in Biarritz and it clicked.
“We moved to Scotland a few years ago because my sister Hannah, who is now 22, goes to university in Glasgow.
“I’m part of the foundation at Gleneagles and all the pros are lovely and they always try to help you. Gleneagles is such a great place to practise and I’m also getting brilliant coaching with the England squad.”
The good news for the England coaches is that while Gower is off to America she will return in May and be available for selection for key team events over the summer.
That’s a relief for Gower who is eager to play her part in the 2020 campaign.
She added: “I’d love to represent England again. It’s an honour and a privilege.
“I want to play in the Home Internationals and Europeans if I can.
“I played in both of these in 2019 and I’ve also played against Ireland, Spain and Switzerland in the past.”
Insert photograph credit: LET