Golf: Clarke no longer in shadows after win

Amateur golf champion Lewis Clarke, pictured at Howley Hall Golf Club, Morley, Leeds SH1001911b. PIC: Simon Hulme
Amateur golf champion Lewis Clarke, pictured at Howley Hall Golf Club, Morley, Leeds SH1001911b. PIC: Simon Hulme
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This time last year, Lewis Clarke was so unknown in golfing circles that he would turn up at events and people would barely know he was competing.

Twelve months on, and everyone in Leeds golf now knows the name of Lewis Clarke.

For the 19-year-old is the new Leeds Amateur champion and after a consistent summer he has been named player of the year by the city’s union of golf clubs.

All this after only taking up the sport four and half years ago.

“I used to play rugby league for Stanley Rangers but I got an arm injury and that put paid to that, so I had to look at something else,” says Clarke.

“It’s only this year that I’ve started playing for the Leeds’ senior side and getting recognised at tournaments.

“I turn up to events now and people know who I am, whereas maybe a year ago I was largely anonymous.”

Clarke made certain that he was the name on the tips of everyone’s tongues with a 3&2 victory over Jamie Perkins (Wetherby) in the Leeds Amateur Championship final at Cookridge Hall on Sunday.

“It was pretty touch and go for the first few holes,” says Clarke of a rollercoaster of a 36-hole final.

“Then I won nine, 10 and 11 to get to four up and by the time we’d finished the first 18, I was six up.

“But then Jamie set off like a house on fire in the second 18 and by the turn, he’d reduced it to just a one-hole lead.

“It wasn’t like I was playing badly, I actually won a couple of holes, it was just that he won seven. We didn’t halve a hole for the front nine.

“Then I won the 10th and he got it back on the 14th and then put his tee shot on the par-three 15th to 10-foot.

“My caddie turned to me and said: ‘You’d better pull your finger out’. He was right, and I knew he was. Fortunately I stiffed it to three-foot. He then missed his putt and I holed mine to go two up with three to play.It was a classic matchplay moment.

“Then on 16, Jamie had a long putt for birdie that he raced at the hole because he needed to win it, and it went five-foot past.

“I just lagged mine up to put the pressure on and he missed his coming home. He made me hole out, as you would, but it was sweet to do it that way.”

It was only when Clarke got to the clubhouse to accept the Grantham Eley Trophy and the applause of the committee, that his other achievement sunk in.

“Prior to the final I had no idea I was in the running for the player of the year accolade as well, and I just wanted to shut that out in the final,” says Clarke, who earned the honour for his consistent form for the Leeds senior team and performances in tournaments across the year.

“John Grimbleby just came up to me before the final and said ‘you’re five points behind Barry Hardcastle, a win will see you named player of the year’. So it’s a real bonus to win that as well.”

Clarke will not defend his amateur title next year. The former Low Laithes member turns professional this week and intends to start the PGA professional’s course, studies he will combine with a job at Howley Hall.

“I’d like to be a good teaching professional, that’s how I see myself,” adds Clarke.

“It’s the way I’ve been brought up, to help people.

“A lot of people at Low Laithes and Howley Hall have helped me get to this point and I’d like to repay them. But no free lessons though, maybe just for my dad.”

Rebecca O'Grady.

Howley Hall’s O’Grady on a drive to encourage more women into golf