Golfer Amber back in the swing after a year to forget

Amber Ratcliffe returned to tournament golf in the south of France. Picture by SIMON FINLAY

Amber Ratcliffe returned to tournament golf in the south of France. Picture by SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Amber Ratcliffe is looking forward to an action-packed season after hardly hitting a ball in 2016 because of illness.

The 21-year-old from Cromer was laid low by glandular fever for most of the year and only recovered just in time to take her place in the qualifying competition for the European Ladies Tour in December.

Ratcliffe performed well in Morocco to comfortably make it through to the final stages before claiming a solid tied 45th finish that should open plenty of doors as she returns to tournament golf after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

She is planning a full schedule on the second tier Access Series – and is keeping her fingers crossed that the category she secured just before Christmas gets her into one or two main tour events as well.

'It's great to be back because 2016 wasn't the best of years for me,' said the former Norfolk Amateur champion. 'I got glandular fever and it was really difficult to shrug it off. I was just too weak to play for six months or so and it was really frustrating.

'In the circumstances I was reasonably pleased with how it went at Tour School, as I was still a little bit rusty. It's a shame I didn't finish in the top 30 because that would have got me a higher category, but there's still a chance I will get in a few tournaments on the main tour. There's one in the Czech Republic in July that might be a possibility.

'I'll see what happens with that but the main target this year is the Access Series. The top five at the end of the season will get Tour cards and that is what I will be going for.

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'It's a really good standard, with top players of all ages from across Europe taking part, and I am really looking forward to getting back out there.'

Ratcliffe is now working hard to ensure her game is in the best possible shape for her return to competitive action, with plenty of time being spent out on the course at Marriott Sprowston Manor, who continue to back the youngster.

The opening event of the 2017 Access Series is the Terre Blanche Ladies Open in the south of France, which gets under way on March 31. There is also a tournament scheduled for the Azores in April – although the date has yet to be confirmed – before the tour gets fully up and running in early May.