Golf: Six-man team win highlights quality of apprentices in city

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Leeds Juniors won the Yorkshire team championship last week to emphasise the thriving nature of apprentice golf in the city.

A six-man team went up to Eaglescliffe Golf Club on Teesside and returned with the county title for the second time in three years.

That triumph came in between the final junior order of merit matches last week that resulted in two new seasonal champions.

And to top it off, one of the shining stars of the local scene – Matthew Lees, 16, of Woolley Park – is headed to West Virginia in October to compete in the prestigious Faldo Series final after winning the regional qualifier at Notts Golf Club last week.

“We are really fortunate to have a thriving junior section at the moment,” said Mick Fisher, Leeds Union’s junior co-ordinator.

“I have to admit at the start of the year I was worried for the health of the game among teenagers because a couple of golf clubs were unable to raise a team.

“But we quickly overcame that and have had a cracking summer.

“A lot of the credit has to go to the individual clubs.

“They put a lot of time into juniors and the city and the region as a whole is really benefitting.

“Winning the Yorkshire team championship last week was a terrific achievement.

“I know we might have won it two years ago but before that we went through a long spell where we failed to win it, so we’re now backing it up with more victories. That team that went up to Eaglescliffe and won could have done the double as well, but they lost the league season to Sheffield on countback.

“So it’s been a great year and it bodes well for next year and beyond.”

The six-man team – all of them 16 and 17-years-old – which won at Eaglescliffe included Lees who shot 75, 69 in his two rounds of strokeplay.

Tom Murray (Moor Allerton) shot 74, 67; Tom North (Howley Hall) 76, 81; Tom Gray (Moortown) 80, 78; Sam Stokes (Scarcroft) 78, 83; and Ben Firth (Moortown), 74, 79.

Their combined score was 914, enough to beat Sheffield by two strokes.

Harrogate’s six-man team of George Muscroft, Oliver White, Sam Naylor, Robert Nesbitt, Tom Calon and Will Caldecott finished third on 924 strokes.

Lees’ claimed his Faldo series regional title at Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell) on August 18-20.

Crowned the Leeds junior matchplay champion earlier in the summer, Lees carded two rounds of level-par 72 and a one-over 73 to tie for victory in the Under-18s section of the competition and finish fourth overall.

Then he showed nerves of steel to win the play-off on the second hole and qualify for the 18th grand finals of the Faldo Series at The Greenbrier – a regular PGA Tour stop – in West Virginia next month.

Closer to home, the final rounds of the inaugural junior order of merit were played at Moor Allerton and Cookridge.

Liam Bennett, 17, of Horsforth won the gross order of merit with a points tally of 365.

Fifteen-year-old Hayden Lawson (Leeds Golf Centre) won the nett order of merit with a total of 245 points.

The best four scores from six competitions were taken into account.

Ben Hutchinson receives the Yorkshire amateur championship trophy for 2016 from then YUGC president Jonathan Plaxton after his victory at Moortown.

Past president Jonathan Plaxton to take over from Keith Dowswell as YUGC secretary