England players follow Danny Willett to take on France

Alfie Plant

Leading England amateurs will follow in the footsteps of US Masters champion Danny Willett when they take on France in next week’s biennial international.

The match – at Formby Golf Club, Lancashire, on the weekend of May 14 and 15 – is a must for talent spotters, who have been richly rewarded when looking for future stars.

Both Danny Willett and Chris Wood were in the 2008 match – and gave ample indication of what was to come. Willett sealed his final day singles with five successive birdies while Wood won all four of his matches. In 2010 Tommy Fleetwood was in the team, playing a memorable singles against Victor Dubuisson. Other players have included Eddie Pepperell, Tom Lewis and Jean van de Velde.

This year’s England team is also packed with promise. The eight-strong line-up is Jamie Bower of Yorkshire, Scott Gregory of Hampshire, Josh Hilleard of Somerset, Paul Kinnear of Lancashire, Bradley Moore of Derbyshire, Alfie Plant of Kent, Ashton Turner of Lincolnshire and James Walker of Yorkshire.

Bower, Hilleard, Plant and Walker are all very recent winners – with Plant (pictured top) impressively taking the honours in the Lytham Trophy at the weekend.

Three of the team – Bower, Moore and Gregory – are in the world top 50 with Turner not far behind. Hilleard, who won four times in 22 days in April, moved up over 100 places in the rankings in one week.

They will play the French line up of Edgar Catherine, Ugo Coussaud, Andoni Etchenique, Jeong Weon Ko, Adrien Pendaries, Pierre Pineau, Grégoire Schoeb and Victor Veyret. Coussaud tied second in the Lytham Trophy.

The fixture dates back to 1934 and England have won 28 of the matches so far, conceding just five. The French team were last successful in 2010 in Chantilly.

The match consists of four foursomes and eight singles on each day and spectators are very welcome to watch the action unfold at Formby, which is renowned as one of the world’s great links courses, set amongst magnificent coastal sand dunes and towering pines.

The club has hosted the Amateur Championship on four occasions producing winners including Jose Maria Olazabal and Matteo Manassero.  However this is the first time that the England v France match has been played at Formby.

The England players:

Jamie Bower, 23, (Meltham) won twice on an early season tour of South Africa, in the Gauteng North Amateur and the Southern Cape Open, and was third in the African Open.  Last season he was a semi-finalist in the English amateur and had a series of top ten finishes in events including the European amateur, where he was sixth, the French amateur, the Lytham Trophy and the Hampshire Salver.

Scott Gregory, 21, (Corhampton) was runner-up in the 2016 Spanish Amateur and helped England win the Costa Ballena Quadrangular tournament earlier this season. He tied fourth in last year’s European men’s amateur championship, was runner-up in the Lagonda Trophy and fourth in the Waterford Trophy, which he was defending. He was a quarter-finalist in the English amateur, having reached the final the previous year.

Josh Hilleard, 21, (Farrington Park) won four events in the space of 22 days in April: the West of England Championship, the Berkhamsted Trophy, the Faldo Series Wales Championship and the Hampshire Salver. He was also in England’s winning team at the Costa Ballena Quadrangular Tournament.  Last season he was top qualifier for the English amateur and won the Midland Open and the North of England Youths.

Paul Kinnear, 22, (Formby) is a member of the host club.  He played in The Open at St Andrews last year and was third in the Brabazon Trophy, where he was the leading English player, and reached the last 16 in the English amateur championship. He represented England on a tour of South Africa earlier this season notably signing off in the South African stroke play with a 63 and a share of 14th place.

Bradley Moore, 18, (Kedleston Park) was joint runner-up in the Lytham Trophy and helped Europe beat Asia Pacific in the 2016 Bonallack Trophy. He tied third in this year’s Lake Maquarie International in Australia, won the 2015 Carris Trophy – the English U18 boys’ open stroke play – and was top qualifier for the British boys’ championship. He captained the GB&I boys’ team which successfully retained the 2015 Jacques Leglise Trophy.

Alfie Plant, 23, (Sundridge Park) beat an international field by seven shots at the weekend to win the Lytham Trophy – and had been due a big title. Last season he was runner up in the English Amateur, the Chiberta Grand Prix and the Hampshire Hog; third in the Biarritz Cup, and was joint top points scorer for England in the 2015 Home Internationals. He was 10th in this season’s Cape Province Open while touring South Africa with England Golf.

Ashton Turner, 20, (Kenwick Park) helped Europe beat Asia Pacific in the Bonallack Trophy. He toured Australia earlier this season where he had top 20 finishes in the Master of the Amateurs and the Lake Macquarie Amateur, reached the second round of the Australian Amateur and made the matchplay in the New South Wales Amateur. He won the U21 Darwin Salver last year, having also held it in 2013.

James Walker, 22, (The Oaks) won this season’s Selborne Salver and reached the semi-finals of the Spanish amateur championship, losing to the eventual champion only on the 19th. He was sixth at the weekend’s Lytham Trophy where his second round 66 was the low round of the championship. He won the 2015 Waterford Trophy, was runner-up in the Tillman Trophy and third in the North of England youths’ championship. His father, Graham, is the England team coach.

Full scores, reports and pictures will be available at www.englandgolf.org/englandvfrance

Image copyright Leaderboard Photography