It all started at the age of 11 when I was a young girl with a dream to become a professional golfer.

I grew up on a council estate in Penzance, Cornwall and, as you can imagine, golf was not really the most popular choice of career to embark on. But, I started playing at Cape Cornwall Golf Club with my older brother.

After a year or so, my dad moved us to a golf club that had more juniors as it was only my brother and I at Cape Cornwall.

Once at West Cornwall GC, we joined the junior section and our golf went from strength to strength. Summer holidays were a blast as Mum would drop us at the golf club early in the morning and not pick us up until later in the evening – every young golfer’s dream!

My days would be full of practicing with the other juniors, playing, going in for cheesy chips and then back out again, who wouldn’t love it, right?

Playing in the junior competitions and getting my handicap down, I was then lucky enough to be chosen for the county squads, winning the Under 15 & Under 18 championships multiple times, which I imagine helped the selection process.

I had the biggest surprise when I got selected for the England Under 16 Elite squad at the age of 15, which showed me that the hours of practice and dedication was paying off. Unfortunately my time within the squad was short lived due to bullying and my Dad decided to withdraw me from that squad, but I always believe things happen for a reason!

I then decided to take some time away from golf so I could concentrate on my studies – my school results were not the best and not surprisingly, when I was in class daydreaming of being out on the golf course. I knew I didn’t want to go to university, so I had to think of something to focus on and so I decided to do the PGA Degree. This took three years to complete and once completed gives you the skills to teach golf, run a pro shop or just anything to do with golf in the future. This seemed like the perfect combination as I knew I definitely wanted a career in golf but it also gave me a safety net if I didn’t achieve my primary goal of making it as a player.

Once qualified, I spent 3 years teaching at West Cornwall GC, which was great, but I seemed to have lost my vision. Because I was making good money teaching and building up a good reputation as a coach, the playing almost stopped. My brother then spoke to me and said that I need to pursue my playing career, and that I could always come back to coaching. So that’s what I did! I knew if I stayed in Cornwall I couldn’t pursue playing, plus unfortunately with golf you need funds to play events, cost of accommodation, entry fees, flights, equipment etc. I hadn’t chosen the most affordable sport to be talented at! I had no bank of “Mum & Dad” so the only option for me was to get some sponsorship, which was also always going to be tough in Cornwall, so I left!

I gave up everything I knew, sold all my furniture and moved to East Sussex. I rented a double room in a house owned by a married couple, attached myself to a golf club and literally taught golf there and tried to network as much as I could. The first two weeks were the hardest as my head was full of “what have I done”. I had a good job, rented a nice house, built up belongings and just gave it all up with no certainty or security.

Over time I found my feet and I knew that no one would just come up to me and offer sponsorship, so I needed to go out and get it. I managed to get some small sponsorship, but still not quite the amount I needed to focus full time on my playing. I then started building a profile on LinkedIn, trying to connect to as many business men & women as possible. I also offered to go to golf days and do “beat the pro” for free to see if I could make some connections there.

This worked well and I managed to secure some sponsorship with a company that allowed me to focus on my golf for just over a year. Within that time, I had started to see my playing results improve, I had some wins, one on the Tartan Tour and also got through to the final qualifying of the British Open after trying for several years before.

I unfortunately lost that sponsorship deal, due to being approached by an individual who was keen to get on board and be part of my journey.

This heartbreakingly for me was not quite the case! The individual offered a 3 year contract, lease car and to cover costs of any equipment etc. As you can imagine this was something I had been looking for for years, the break I needed. Unfortunately this does not have a happy ending and the individual never sponsored me. He got me to sign up to a lease car I never wanted in the beginning and lost me my previous sponsor because of offering a longer contract! This was a pretty low point in my career as I fully trusted this individual to be genuine, after all I didn’t approach him for sponsorship, he approached me. After that, I had no form of income because I had been playing full time, I had no client base of lessons, so I got a job as a cleaner and gardener for a few months to get by until I picked myself up to go again…that was hard!

I started again by reaching out to guys on LinkedIn, just hoping to get a reply to at least start a conversation about what I could offer them and their company in return for investment. This thankfully worked and I managed to work with a holiday company. The money they invested was a massive help and allowed me to play, which in turn got me selected to represent GB&I in the WPGA Cup in America, one of five women lucky enough to represent my country. Still this wasn’t quite enough for me to really give playing a go full time. It didn’t allow me to have access to the best coaches, facilities, equipment etc. I kept exploring and networking and eventually picked up two more sponsors. This was better and finally I had the funds I needed to go for it.

January 2019 was the year, until Covid19 hit! This was when I was ready and raring to go. March arrived and so did the pandemic, and with that my sponsorship had gone.

Understandably the holiday company couldn’t sponsor me anymore and one of the other companies had to furlough staff, so I lost that one too.

Don’t get me wrong, there are human beings a lot worse off than myself – but at the time it was heart wrenching. So, the dream had to stop for the
last few years and I just concentrated on doing some teaching to get by.

At Christmas 2021, I decided to get back to it…Covid had subsided a little and it felt like life was getting back to some sort of normality. So I went again. Over Christmas I spent hours writing to my connections on LinkedIn, giving it another go. Thank god I did! This was where I met Andrew Powell (The Lighthouse Group).

Andrew kindly replied to my message and we set up a Zoom call to talk about my aspirations and what I needed to get there. Within a week Andrew had introduced me to some of his network who wanted to chat about getting involved and helping. I am currently in the process of setting up meetings with these individuals and looking forward to where these may lead.

Lighthouse is a fantastic company, they fill me with the belief that they genuinely want to help with everything they can to make your dreams become a reality and for someone like myself who has dealt with some untrusting individuals in the past, I feel The Lighthouse Group has built up my faith in humanity again, and for that reason I will be forever grateful to Andrew and The Lighthouse Group.

Maria Tulley