England’s Dominic Clemons and Caitlin Whitehead have won the Loretto School Scottish boys’ and girls’ U14 open championship at Craigielaw Golf Club.
The strong international field faced some testing conditions in East Lothian, with winds gusting around 35 mph on the first of the two-day event, but it dropped on the second afternoon to favour the later starters and produce a dramatic finish in the boys’ championship.
Fourteen year-old Clemons from Gog Magog Golf Club clinched the title in a sudden death play-off, beating Jean Bekirian from Manville in France with a birdie at the first extra hole. It follows up on his third place in last week’s English U14 boys’ open championship for the Reid Trophy.
The bronze medal was won by William Lewis from Long Ashton Golf Club, who finished two shots behind on 145.
Bekirian had held the lead in the clubhouse after posting a 75 and 68 in his two rounds of stroke play for a one-over total. But his hopes of winning were dashed when the English youngster, playing in the last group, matched his scores to take the competition beyond 36 holes.
“The first day was trickier with the weather but today, you had to take the birdie chances and go low,” said Clemons, who lives in Hertfordshire. “In the play-off, Jean had a tough chip and he put it to about 15 feet which was a good shot from where he was and I just had to give myself a birdie chance which came out right for a simple putt.
“It’s a great win and I’m happy as I’ve had a few top five and top-10 results so I’m happy to get over the line finally. This is a good one to win as there are people from all over the world playing.”
In the girls’ championship, it was an England one-two-three, with Whitehead, 13, scoring 147 to finish five-over, with Annabell Fuller from Roehampton and Whitley Bay’s Rosie Belsham three shots behind on 150. Fuller, the runner-up in this year’s Scottish Girls Open, was awarded the silver medal on a count-back.
Whitehead, from Kendal Golf Club, shot eight birdies in her four-under second round of 67, which was the lowest score of both the boys’ and girls’ events.
The Cumbrian had set herself a target of par, having played well in the first round until the last two holes, going eight shots over on those alone to card an 80. But with the wind dropping ahead of her round, she produced eight birdies on day two, including one at the par-five 18th, which, a day earlier, had taken her nine shots.
She said: “It was good to go out in the better half of the day when the wind dropped as last year I had the worst half both days, so it was good to get the better conditions and the greens were softer and the title was out there to get.
“It was my goal this year to win either the English or the Scottish as it’s my last year at under-14 so I’m really pleased to have won.”
Both Whitehead and Clemons are member of England Golf regional U16 squads. Whitehead was fifth in last month’s English U14 girls’ open championship while Clemons will represent England in next week’s U16 boys’ international against Wales.
First contested in 2001, the event, which attracted players from 24 countries this year, is the youngest national age group championship in Scotland. The event has been greatly supported by the Loretto School Golf Academy, who have been sponsors since 2004.
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Image © Craig Watson