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Niamh Ward, who graduates with a first-class honours degree in Accountancy, has  been excelling on the putting greens and fairways as well as in the classroom.

From Lurgan in Co. Armagh, Niamh attended St Michael’s Grammar School, and it was in her hometown where her love of golf began at the age of ten when her dad took her to the local Silverwood course for the first time.

After joining Lurgan Golf Club her talent blossomed, and not before long she was playing at international level.

“I was about 15 when I made the international team. I played in the European and International competitions and won the Ulster Girls’ around that time too."

She had the chance to go to America for two years on a golf scholarship before coming home to enrol at Ulster University.

“I was playing NCAA Division One over in America, a really high standard. I’d seen the likes of (Great Britain and Ireland international golfer) Paula Grant playing at Ulster, and the accountancy course I wanted to do and the Business School at Ulster is very good. It just seemed better, both for sport and academic-wise.”

Niamh’s golf game has since gone from strength to strength, winning the Irish Intervarsity Golf Championships in 2018 and 2019. She is only UU student ever to retain an Intervarsity Golf title in consecutive years.

“Winning the Intervarsity at St Anne’s the second year in 2019, I really didn’t expect to because I didn’t play too well on the first two days, so to end up winning it was a surprise. I didn’t think I was going to place though, so I was actually on my way driving home before they competition organisers rang me to tell me, ‘you need to come back here!’

The year before I won up in Rosapenna, and it was some of the best golf I played. I was really happy to win it, and Ulster University was a big part of it because it provided me with the coaching, the environment and the freedom to go and improve my game.”

Niamh was recognised as an R&A (Royal & Ancient) Scholar, a renowned programme which supports around 170 student golfers each year from all over Great Britain. She has also been part of the Ulster University Performance Golf Programme for each of her years at the university.

“Through the Performance Golf Programme, we got lessons from Johnny Foster and Chris Gallaher up at Greenacres, some of the best coaches in Ireland, so that was unbelievable.

To be an R&A Scholar and on the Performance Golf Programme from first year, it really helped out both in coaching and financially, because golf isn’t cheap. To be able to do that means I didn’t have to work in my part-time job as much, and so could focus more on my studies as well.

You really have to balance it, but Alison (Moffitt, Sports Development Officer at Ulster University) is great because you knew if you weren’t able to play in every competition, she would reassure you not to stretch yourself too much and to focus on your degree.”

That focus and dedication to her studies ensured Niamh was able to secure a graduate job at KPMG in Belfast before achieving her first-class degree, which she will commence in November.

“I’m absolutely delighted at getting the first. I just can’t wait to get started in November. The goal now is to complete my training contract and pass my Chartership exams.”