The team from Long Ashton in Gloucestershire snatched victory in the English Junior Champion Club tournament today by the tiny margin of one point – on countback.
Nathan Moore, Sam Harrison and Sam Williams (image © Leaderboard Photography) came in right at the end of the 36-hole final at Frilford Heath and tied Cambridgeshire’s Nene Park on 147 stableford points, with the best two scores counting in each round.
The title was decided by the combined scores of all three players over both rounds and Long Ashton triumphed with 206 points to Nene Park’s 205.
The championship was decided at England Golf Week which brought over 500 competitors to Frilford Heath to take part in a series of finals during the five-day celebration of handicap golf.
“It’s really brilliant,” said Long Ashton’s junior organiser, Andi Moore. Meanwhile, Nene Park’s lead scorer Lucas Bickers promised: “We’ll be back.”
Nene Park – whose team also included Dan Clark and Kallon Rawlings – had set the target hours earlier and settled in for a long wait.
“I’ve never been in this position before so I don’t know what to expect, but we won’t get too over-excited because anything can happen in golf,” said Bickers, who had scores of 39 and 43 points.
His words turned out to be prophetic when Long Ashton staged a storming finish to win the championship. Moore came in first, with 31 points off two handicap, followed by Williams with 41 and finally Harrison with 36.
None of them had any idea of how the team was placed and, in fact, they each thought the others were scoring poorly. “I saw Sam hit two into the gorse and thought he wasn’t playing very well,” said Harrison.
In fact, Williams, 16, was putting together his best round since taking up golf a couple of years ago. “I felt really good swinging the club and started going at a few pins and it went from there,” said the 12-handicapper.
Harrison, meanwhile, was spurred on by his own annoyance at incurring a two-shot penalty for playing a wrong ball. He also missed several birdie putts and his putt for par on the last stopped about two inches from the hole. He came in adding up the missed opportunities which he feared might cost the team – only to be delighted when their victory was confirmed.
“This is really, really good and it’s going to be a big inspiration to our younger juniors,” said Andi Moore.
Long Ashton had started the final round in a share of seventh place after scoring 70 points in the first round, before adding 77 today. Nene Park had been in 13th place at the halfway stage with 67 points and added 80 today.
Meanwhile, overnight leaders The Burstead, from Essex, slipped back into third place after they added 67 to their opening 76. The team was Harry Marchant, Sam Ainsbury and Noah Andrews.
The low score of the championship was Bicker’s second round 43. The 14-year-old has been playing serious golf for only a year and today’s score is his best yet. His round started with a double bogey and he had two blobs on the back nine – but the rest was very steady, composed of six pars, six bogeys and three birdies.
“The best thing was that we were chasing, so there was no pressure,” said Bickers. “I just stuck to my plan to go out and play golf. I got the right bounces, the right kicks and holed the right putts.”