A class apart – season of success for English schoolkids

The curtain has come down on the English Schools’ Golf Association season and the campaign – supported by England Golf – has been hailed a roaring success.

With strong backing from England Golf, the ESGA successfully competed in international matches against Scotland and Wales as well as hosting individual Under 16 and Under 19 championships and a team event.

A small army of volunteers at county level has enabled young golfers from all across the country to represent their schools at regional and national levels and enjoy the thrill of competition.

The numbers of players and the skills on show at all the championships left an indelible impression on anyone fortunate enough to witness the matches and Steve Akrill, secretary of the ESGA, has been impressed with the levels of ability coming through the ranks.

“It’s been a great season for both the boys and the girls and the events at regional and national level have shown we have a lot of strength in depth,” admitted Akrill.

“In particular we had a lot of younger players emerging and more than holding their own against older players in their age bracket. That’s always great to see.”

The season kicked off in July with the 42nd English Schools’ Championship which was held at Sherwood Forest GC in Nottinghamshire.

The emergence of younger talent was never more evident than at this event as two 14-year-old competitors scooped the top prizes.

Louise Burke from Lytchett Minster School in Dorset emerged triumphant in the girls’ event and Yorkshire’s Josh Berry was the boys’ champ.

An additional bonus for the duo, pictured above, was the chance to captain English Schools in the international matches which followed later in the summer.

Berry, from Campsmount Academy in Doncaster, has since gone on to represent England in Under 16 Home Internationals and is part of the England Golf Boys’ squad for the 2020 season.

The English Schools’ team event was staged at the National Golf Centre HQ at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire with 34 teams from 26 counties taking part.

Dyke House Academy from Hartlepool took the trophy back to Durham with their three-man team of Jack Burton, Louis Westmoreland and William Skipp enjoying a three-point victory in the Stableford competition.

The under 16’s championship was staged in West Yorkshire at Cleckheaton and District GC.

A total of 65 girls and boys took part with Rachel Gourley and Finn Nelson, pictured below, claiming the honours.

Rachel’s form has earned her a call-up to the England Golf set up and she will be part of the girls’ team – along with Louise Burke – for a challenge match against Ireland at Hunstanton GC on October 12-13.

The two games against Scotland and Wales always brings an edge to proceedings with national pride at stake!

The match against Wales was played at Luffenham Heath GC in August and saw England win 11.5 – 6.5.

After travelling north to face Scotland on the links at Irvine GC, the match proved to be a real nail-biter.

England’s form was excellent and it looked as if they were well on their way to victory before the Scots fought back to win the final three points available and secure a 9-9 draw.

Akrill added: “Scotland had five players who were in their national set-up for Home Internationals.

“But the team spirit for that match really shone through with the girls finishing their games and heading straight back out onto the course to lend their support to the boys.

“When the girls faced Wales they were definitely underdogs. Our average handicap was three compared to Wales’ one, but the girls performed superbly with three wins in the singles helping the combined team to get over the line.

“It’s been a really positive year with lots of good golf being played and the enthusiasm of the youngsters shining through.”

Three venues for next year’s events have already been decided with the national championship taking place at Gog Magog GC in Cambridgeshire, the under 16 event going to Northamptonshire County GC and the away game against Wales set for the Rolls of Monmouth GC.