In the run up to the Corporate Relay Challenge – a race which will raise money for military patients treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and to support future Olympic and Paralympic athletes – the Birmingham Post is highlighting those who will benefit.
Not many people know exactly what they want to do at 13, but that wasn’t true for recent University of Birmingham graduate, sports scholar and budding golf star Lauren Spray.
The first competition Lauren won was an 18-hole junior handicap competition when she was 14 – her first at county level and only a year after getting her first golf clubs.
Winning this spurred Lauren on to pursue her favourite sport: “I realised I wanted golf to be my career, I remember thinking how much I liked the feeling of winning.”
She got that feeling again in July 2009 by making history along with fellow scholars Lucy Williams, Sian James and Charlotte Hope by being the first women’s only team not only to qualify for World Student Matchplay Championships in Inglostadt, Munich but also too become Champions.
Lauren said: “Being the only girls team in the tournament was really exciting. We worked as a team and enjoyed every minute of it.”
Seven years on from that first competition, Lauren was among the few students chosen for a sports scholarship to support her at university whilst studying. She was part of the Government-funded Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), and Royal & Ancient (R&A) scholarship, which is solely for golf.
“I was one of four on the R&A in my year. It’s fantastic as you get £500 that can only be used for golf equipment and for your course. I got to play two rounds at St Andrews because of it, which was amazing.
“TASS was slightly different as, even though we were helped financially, it also meant we got access to strength and conditioning (S&C) twice a week with the Hi Performance Centre with University of Birmingham Sport (UBSport), which was incredible.”
Lauren explains: “When I got a shoulder injury, the physiotherapist worked with S&C to aid my rehabilitation and get me playing again so I didn’t miss too much of the season.
“Without the scholarships I wouldn’t have been able to play again so soon, or take part in as many competitions as I have; it’s been invaluable to me and my future.”
Lauren said studying Applied Golf Management Studies (AGMS), the only degree of its kind in the world, has benefited her too.
She said: “Even though all the lectures were related back to golf, I can use so much what I have learnt in so many other areas of my life. AGMS, and my scholarship, have been very advantageous to me, I’m really lucky.”
Lauren has found time to watch the British Open – playing in the women’s final is an ambition – to cheer on her friends Sian and Lucy, but kept an eye on the men’s final too.
“Being from Nottingham, I supported Lee Westwood as he is from the area too” says Lauren. “I met him after coaching at his academy. So I was a bit disappointed Louis Oosthuizen won, but to be fair he played exceptionally well.”
So, what’s next for the bright 21-year-old from Nottinghamshire? “I’m thinking about coming back to Birmingham to study for a Masters in sports coaching, I imagine I’ll have to get a part-time job, hopefully around golf, and that’s as far into the future as I have thought.”
* You can help students like Lauren reach their potential, by taking part the Corporate Relay Challenge.
The race will take place on Wednesday, September 22 in Cannon Hill Park.
There will be 4 x 1 mile relay for men and mixed teams, 3 x 1 for women’s teams. Organisations can enter at a cost of £20 for men’s or mixed teams, £15 for women’s teams and £10 for children’s (7-13 year old) teams.
To register visit www.sport.bham.ac.uk.