Whilst most eight-year-olds are busy spending their summer holidays relaxing with friends and family, one youngster from Leeds is working ‘full swing’ out on the fairway, preparing for the biggest golf tournament of her life.
Alayna Rafique first picked up a golf club at the age of just two. Over the years, she has swapped the plastic clubs for a full set of irons, and the putting practice now goes hand-in-hand with hundred yard drives.
Originally from Leeds, she has lived in Dubai with her family for the past seven years yet returns every summer to hone up on her golfing skills, and when possible, see her UK relatives.
Last month, the mini sports star in-the-making qualified for the largest junior Golf Championships in the UK – the Wee Wonders Open Golf Championships.
With the final set to be staged over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Alayna will face off against some of the greatest talents – aged between five and eight – at the prestigious St Andrews Golf Course in Scotland.
Currently training at Cookridge Golf Club in Leeds, she said: “I enjoy everything about golf. I like that there is a hard part to it. Golf can’t always be easy and I have to train to be the best that I can.
“I am really looking forward to the finals and to play at St Andrews.”
Golf certainly runs in the family for the Rafiques, with Alayna’s nine-year-old brother also soaring high in the sport. Even her youngest sibling, who is just two-years-old, has his own set of clubs.
Alayna’s mum, Shanna Hussan, said it was something the kids were just natural at.
“Alayna was initially interested in tennis but when we moved to Dubai all the clubs were full up,” she explained.
“One day she decided to accompany her brother to the golf course and it was there that she was spotted by a member of the club. They told us she had a natural swing and ever since then, she hasn’t been able to put the clubs down.”
Despite previously qualifying for the Wee Wonders Open Golf Championship at the age of five, Alayna will compete in the finals for the first time this year after being forced to miss out last time due to a family wedding.
“It was a shame really, but it’s great to see Alayna qualify once again for the championship this year,” Shanna added.
“I think she is even more determined to succeed and has worked really hard all year to qualify. She trains four times a week, whether she is here or in Dubai, and deserves all the success gets.”
The Wee Wonders Open Golf Championships was founded in 1995 in Scotland by Alasdair Good, Head PGA Professional at Gullane Golf Club.
It rapidly grew to become the only tournament with fully national coverage for children in the age range of five-to-12 and provides an opportunity for entry into competitive golf both for children new to the game and for the most experienced young players.
In 2015, there were 16 Regional Qualifiers held over nine holes in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – leading to the Grand Final in St Andrews, the ‘Home of Golf’.