Not only did John Axelsen become the first Dane to win the McGregor Trophy but he also got the monkey off his back with his thrilling victory at Radcliffe-on-Trent.
Rounds of 71 and 67 on the final day for a 72-hole total of 274, six under par, left the great Dane seven strokes clear of runner-up Luke Northwood from Kenilworth Golf Club, Warwickshire and nine ahead of Lancashire’s Oliver Clarke from olf Club.
A year ago in the McGregor at Seacroft, Axelsen (image © Leaderboard Photography) wrecked his victory hopes by shooting 82 after a course record 66. He was devastated and eventually finished sixth, thinking of what might have been. This week, the 16 year old Danish boy cap was always in contention, especially after firing another course record 66 and he went into the final day three shots clear and into the final round five ahead.
“I learned a lot from last year,” said Axelsen. “That experience lasted from last year lasted a while but it didn’t affect me this week. I didn’t think much about it, I just concentrated on making pars but with a mind-set of making birdies.
“I knew over the last nine holes that I was probably leading by five shots but I’ve seen players in that position screw up. I just kept thinking of making a new record then I’d be safe.”
He certainly came close to it but he always looked in control and his composure never gave a hint that he might screw up.
“This win means a lot to me,” he added. “I’ve played the Reid Trophy twice and now the McGregor three times and this is a big tournament for boys. I’m thrilled and it is a good boost for next week when I’m playing in the European Young Masters in Germany.”
Axelsen partnered defending champion Marco Penge, Golf at Goodwood, for the last two rounds but the Sussex lad failed to hit top form, especially in his morning round of 77. But he stormed back with a closing 68 to finish equal fourth on 284.
Northwood was the surprise package of the event. Two sub-par rounds, including a five-birdie closing 69, saw him put his name on the map. “I was hoping I might make the top ten and perhaps a top five so I’m extremely happy,” said the lad from Kenilworth.
“This is my best performance in any competition and what really pleased me was that I kept calm and composed. “I was glad to shoot low rounds, particularly at the end, and to produce a good performance when it mattered. I managed four consistent rounds and would love to get into the England set-up.”
This week’s display will have boosted that particular aim.
Clarke, the Lancashire boy champion, finished with 72 for 283 and is already in the England set-up as an under 16 international and we shall see more of him in the weeks ahead, while Penge, also off to the European Young Masters, made a strong defence of the title and his closing 68 will help erase come of the hurt from his third round 77, which put him out of the hunt.
The English under 15 championship brought a tie on 288, eight over par, between Danny Daniels from The Hertfordshire Golf Club and Northamptonshire’s Ben Jones, Brampton Heath Golf Centre, both of whom finished ninth in the overall competition.
But the lasting impression is of the slightly-built Axelsen producing a class display to not only win the championship but to join the illustrious list of previous winners that include Ryder Cup man Eduardo Molinari, tour players Paul Waring and Matt Baldwin and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose.