Three Norfolk youngsters broke a deadlock at the top of the leaderboard to win the English schools’ team championship on the Bracken course at Woodhall Spa.
Thorpe St Andrews School in Norwich, represented by Lewis Unstead (Sprowston Manor), Hope Neild (Royal Norwich) and Toby Briggs (Dunston Hall), scored 76 points, with their best two cards counting.
Their total, returned towards the end of a dreary day when heavy showers drenched the later starters, shot them past a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard on 72 points.
“We’re elated,” said Briggs, 15, an England U16 international, who plays off plus-two. “This is the first national event Hope and I have played in and it was brilliant,” said Unstead. Neild added: “It was great.”
Second place, on countback, went to St Andrews School, Surrey, with team members George Stinton (West Byfleet), Ben Partridge (Epsom) and Enrique Dimayuga (Cuddington). Third was Penistone Grammar, Yorkshire, represented by Ben Schmidt (Rotherham GC), Tom Collings (Wortley) and Nicola Slater (Hickleton). Southend High School for Boys, Essex, and Matthew Arnold School, Oxfordshire, also scored 72 points.
Meanwhile Oscar Yeomans (Southend/Chelmsford GC) won the Tom Ward Cup for the best individual score with 40 points.
Thorpe St Andrews’ points were provided by Unstead, 15, and Neild, 13, who both scored 38. Briggs, who won the Norfolk and the South East Schools’ championships, shot a course record in the qualifying round to help the team win through to the final, but his points were not required on this occasion.
Unstead, who plays off 21, commented: “Hope has been consistently good. Toby and I have come in once each.”
The team played through the worst of the weather. “It rained for the whole of the afternoon, it was terrible,” said Unstead. “But I was very pleased with the way I played and I had a succession of pars on my front nine.”
Neild, who has been playing for less than three years and has a 23 handicap, mastered the greens. “My putting was really good and I didn’t really miss anything.”
Thorpe St Andrews are the second Norfolk school to win the championship after Wymondham High School in 2006.
Oscar Yeomans, 17, found the form which has eluded him so far this season when he shot level par 72 for 40 points.
“Considering how the start of my year has gone, it’s a bit of a surprise,” he said. “I’ve gone up from 2.7 to 4.1 – it’s been a bit of a struggle.”
He certainly didn’t struggle on the Bracken course. He was one-under through three and when it looked as though his scoring might fizzle out, he gave himself new momentum by holing a bunker shot for par on the 3rd, having started on the 10th.
He went on to birdie the fourth and sixth, both par fives, to get to one-under. He dropped a shot on the 7th, where his par putt lipped out, but finished with two solid pars “I was a little bit gutted because I gave myself so many chances for birdie and couldn’t make them, but the greens are so slopey, compared to where I play.”
England Golf U16 squad member Megan Dennis (Woburn) made short work of the 157-yard fifth where she had a hole in one. Megan, from Samuel Whitbread Academy in Bedfordshire, used a seven-iron for her first ace in competition and scored four points on the hole.
Caption: Hope Neild, Toby Briggs and Lewis Unstead with the trophy (Image © Leaderboard Photography)
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