England Golf squad player Nicola Slater and Nottinghamshire’s Matt Freeman scooped the honours in the English U16 boys’ and girls’ championship at Hawkstone Park.
Slater, from Hickleton in Yorkshire, and Freeman, from Rufford Park, both completed wire-to-wire wins and both set them up with sub-par first rounds.
Slater, 16, shot three-under par 70 in her first round, on the Championship course, when she compiled an impressive 16 pars, one eagle and one birdie. She followed up with scores of one over 73 and 77 on the Hawkstone course, for a three-over total after 54 holes.
She held a five-shot lead going into the final round but was taking nothing for granted. “A lead like that can go very quickly,” she said. “I just tried to be relaxed, focus on my own game – and I didn’t pay attention to any other scores.
She was still five ahead at the turn, but her closest rival, Annabell Fuller (Roehampton), narrowed the gap when she charged home in one-under for the back nine.
Slater bogeyed the last and, having watched the spectators turn away, thought she was heading for a play-off, before discovering she had edged home by a shot. “Then I came in and Alan (the organiser) shook my hand and congratulated me. It was a shock!”
Slater is a member of England Golf’s Yorkshire U16 girls’ regional squad and has found the training has helped her confidence. She added: “Also, you are in a group and they help you out, yesterday the other girls were supportive and that adds to the whole experience.”
Like Slater, Matt Freeman recorded his biggest win to date with his success in the boys’ event.
The 15-year-old from Rufford Park was the only player to beat par over 54 holes, scoring two-under with rounds of 68 72 74. He was two clear of James Cooper (Cumberwell Park) and a further shot ahead of Aaron Edwards-Hill, an England U16 East regional squad player from Chelmsford.
Freeman’s opening 68 was his best competitive score and included five birdies and just one bogey. “It was great to get off to a good start and I just felt settled in,” he said. “I didn’t really feel under pressure, I knew I was playing well and I had got my game up to where I needed it to be for the tournament.”
The win was particularly satisfying for Freeman after the disappointment of not being picked for an England Golf regional squad. “This is a really big confidence booster because now I know I can do it. I’ve tried to get on a squad twice and both times I was disappointed but in a way it’s given me that drive to prove them wrong,” he said.
The event was organised by Alan Covey, an England Golf U16 regional manager, and was well supported by squad players.
Caption: Matt Freeman and Nicola Slater with organiser Alan Covey. Image courtesy Kevin Diss. To view more championship images click here