Harley Smith admitted he was proud to follow in the spikemarks of Justin Rose, Edoardo Molinari and Oliver Fisher to claim victory in the McGregor Trophy.
The England boys’ squad player emerged triumphant after a thrilling finale to the 72-hole stroke play event at Camberley Heath Golf Club in Surrey.
Rounds of 67, 66, and two closing scores of 69 in the event for under 16 boys gave the golfer from Rayleigh in Essex a winning total of -13 and a one-shot victory from England team-mate Josh Berry.
Smith led wire-to-wire and showed no nerves to take top honours and emulate the achievement of players who have subsequently gone on to win a major, Ryder Cups or claim Tour wins.
He said: “It’s lovely to feel like PGA Tour players have won the same trophy as me. I’m very happy to win and how I performed.
“It feels amazing.”
However, the Essex golfer had to fight all the way for the silverware.
At the halfway stage, the 16-year-old led by five shots from Luke Jenkins from Rochester and Cobham.
After today’s morning 18 holes, the gap was back down to two shots with Freddie Turnell (Burnham and Berrow) hot on his tail.
By the time the leading groups had reached the turn, Berry (pictured below) from Doncaster was threatening an amazing comeback.
Playing four groups ahead of Smith, Berry looked like repeating or even bettering his five under par third round 66 to emerge from the pack.
Eventually, Berry closed with a round of 67 for a -12 total – with Smith edging clear thanks to three straight birdies from the 11th.
In the end, Smith knew a bogey five at the final hole would seal the deal. His approach found a greenside bunker. But an assured splash from the sand and then two putts got him over the line.
“I didn’t play my best this morning but was two under,” added Smith.
“The chasing pack had a very good round and put a bit of pressure on me going into this afternoon.
“I kind of felt like I didn’t play my best in the morning, but I knew it would be tough for them to shoot another good round with the wind picking up and the pressure of playing this event as well.
“I was proud that I did have four rounds in the 60s. It shows my consistency which I’ve been trying to work on these past few months.”
While they were fiercely competitive in the heat of battle, Berry and Smith demonstrated great sportsmanship at the end of the championship – and can talk about the week when the two families head to Royal St George’s this weekend to watch The Open!
Berry added: “It was a tough ask after the first two rounds. I played to win today and came up just short. It is what it is.
“I hit the same shots I hit yesterday but just played better and hit it closer.”
There were a number of notable performances during a tough 36 holes on the final day.
Turnell carded seven birdies and an eagle in a blistering third round of 64 to move onto nine under par for the championship and an afternoon round of 70 saw him tie for third place with Hugh Adams on -10
Adams, from Hagley, can be proud of his showing. His third round 65 featured seven birdies and just one bogey and another sub par round of 70 in the afternoon gave him plenty of positives for the week.
He said: “I’m disappointed at the minute but I’ll look back tomorrow and realise it was a strong week with good golf.
“I’m getting back to the form I was in in 2019 – playing better and shooting better scores.”
It was also another impressive week for Gibraltar-based Sebastian Desoisa (pictured above).
After a top ten finish last month at the English Under 18 Championship, Desoisa managed four rounds under par to finish on -9 and in fifth spot.
He also claimed the Jean Case Memorial Trophy which is awarded to the highest ranked player aged under 15.