English Amateur History

Being crowned national champion is the pinnacle of every amateur golfer’s career. It is the same in England where the English Amateur Championship has to be the goal.

It is a title that is arguably the hardest to secure simply because not only do you have to qualify but every round until to the final is decided over 18-holes of match play when anything can happen.
Whoever proves to be champion knows he has achieved something special even if he needs a good slice of luck along the way.

Even the best can fall by the wayside, something which occurs every year. Evidence of that can be seen by glancing down the list of winners and confirming some notable names that are missing; those who have failed to lift what is the EGU’s oldest championship, inaugurated a year after the Union was formed.

The English Amateur was first played at Hoylake in 1925 when T Froes Ellison, a local man, was the winner. He successfully defended the title the following year at Walton Heath, a feat achieved by only six others, Frank Pennink, Alan Thirlwell, Michael Bonallack, Harry Ashby, Mark Foster and Paul Casey, in the championship’s 83-year history.

It wasn’t long before winning the title back-to-back was achieved by Pennink in 1937 and ‘38 but it was well after the Second World War that the feat was performed again by Thirlwell, the past secretary of CONGU, in 1954 and ‘55.

Bonallack, now Sir Michael, that great international and immediate past secretary of the R&A, achieved the feat did twice in his heyday, in 1962 and ‘63 and in 1967 and ‘68. In all, Bonallack was English champion five times in seven years in the Sixties.

Ashby won consecutively in 1972 and ‘73 and more recently Walker Cup men Foster (1994 and ‘95) and Casey (1999 and 2000), both now successful pros on the European Tour.

Others have ‘done the double’ but not in successive years. J Woolam won in 1933 and ‘35, Gerald Micklem became champion twice in the immediate post World War II years, as did Guy Wolstenholme, father of Gary, one of those missing names, and Doug Sewell.

Father and son, Stanley and Michael Lunt, lifted the title, Stanley at Formby in 1934 by beating the great Leonard Crawley, champion three years earlier, and Michael at Royal Lytham in 1966.
Double winners have not been so frequent in recent times because English champions have inevitably joined the paid ranks soon after their success.

The old trophy is inscribed with some famous names who have triumphed down the years, apart from those already mentioned, notably Mark James and Nick Faldo

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