Two of the top performers at the English Under 18 Championship have given their backing to the event and hailed it as a successful step forward for junior golf.
England squad members Jack Bigham and Maggie Whitehead secured top four finishes at the ground-breaking competition for boys and girls held at Farnham Golf Club in Surrey.
The championship was won by Staffordshire’s Jenson Forrester on 11 under par – three strokes clear of local favourite Lottie Woad.
It was the first time there had been an even split of boy/girl competitors at a major stroke play championship in England.
Two sets of tees were carefully chosen based on the course rating and slope index.
For the first two rounds the 132 competitors (66 boys and 66 girls) played in mixed groups of three and then took to the course according to the leaderboard for the final two rounds.
After posting a six-under par total for fourth place, Whitehead (pictured above) said: “I did enjoy it.
“To watch the boys at close quarters and get to study their game was great.
“The forward tees weren’t too much of an advantage.
“To be boy, girl, boy, girl at the top of the leaderboard was great – it shows that with the right tees everyone can compete at the same standard on the same course.”
Whitehead, from Close House in Northumberland, teed off on the final day with West Herts golfer Zach Little.
“I’d never met Zach before,” said Whitehead (main image).
“But once you get talking it’s easy and you make so many new friends at these tournaments. It’s great.
“I will 100% look forward to playing in this event again in the future, I’ve really enjoyed the week and don’t really want to go home!”
Bigham (pictured above) from Harpenden in Hertforshire was another player who embraced the innovative idea to host a mixed championship for boys and girls.
He was able to finish third on seven-under par for the week and said: “I think it was really good and a well-run event.
“It’s definitely going to be the way forward in the next few years.
“I think it was spot on – it couldn’t have been done a lot better. England Golf did a great job with the tees. Getting that right is not easy and the event, in general, was brilliant.”
Modest Golf Management have given their support to the event through until 2023.
Thanks to their backing Forrester can now look forward to a Challenge Tour start and Woad – as leading girl – will be offered a place in an upcoming LET event.
Photography credit: Leaderboard