Eastbourne's Maria Tulley takes on the boys in PGA qualifier

Maria Tulley free to use courtesy of Adrian Milledge, PGA
Maria Tulley free to use courtesy of Adrian Milledge, PGA

Eastbourne golf pro Maria Tulley has opted to take on the predominantly male field in an English PGA Championship qualifier as opposed to trying to improve her standing in the Women’s PGA Order of Merit.

Next week's PGA South region qualifier at Knole Park, Sevenoaks, clashes with the fourth Women’s PGA One-Day Series event of the season at South Herts Golf Club, Totteridge, north London.

Aside from playing in a tournament closer to home, Tulley, who is attached to Eastbourne Downs Golf Club, Sussex, is keen to test her skills in the 100-plus field that includes some of the region’s top pros.

Corhampton Golf Club’s Adam Reid and James Ablett of Lee-on-The Solent Golf Club who lie seventh and 14th respectively in the region’s Order of Merit are among those bidding to finish in the top 23.

That will result in a place in the final which carries a £30,195 prize fund and will be contested at Bowood Golf and Country Club, Wiltshire, in July.

Tulley currently lies fifth in WPGA Order of Merit, five points adrift of Marie Martindale, the leader and, with four events to go, is well-placed in the race to claim the £1,000 first prize.

Explaining her decision to jeopardise her chances of success in a familiar environment and play in the more testing event, she said: “The English PGA Championship qualifier is a lot closer to where I live and easier to get to than north London so, from a travelling aspect, it makes sense to play in that.

“But with the best will in the world, the field at Knole Park will be a lot stronger than the one at South Herts and I’m keen to see how I get on. It’s a national event and it will be a good test for me.”

Tulley, a member of the five-strong team that will represent Great Britain and Ireland in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup in Texas in late October, warmed up for the qualifier by giving her services in a fundraising golf day for a local charity.

“It was the (Brighton and Hove) Albion in the Community golf day,” she explained. “I’m a Brighton fan so the charity is close to my heart. I ran a Beat the Pro competition on one of the par threes and only six out 90 beat me, so I didn’t cost the charity too much!

“I also donated an hour’s worth of coaching as a raffle prize. As well as supporting a great cause, it’s good way of networking and possibly attracting sponsorship.”