MOORTOWN’S Tom Gray had less than a week to get used to being a Yorkshire county champion before reaching another milestone in his career.
For his Yorkshire Boys’ championship victory at Fulford has opened the door onto Open regional qualifying.
Gray learned at the start of the week that he had earned a place on his home course on June 20, his opening three-under-par 69 on his way to the title cementing his handicap at scratch.
“If you’re off scratch then you don’t get balloted out,” said 18-year-old Gray. “I went up to 0.9 then came back down to scratch at Fulford so that’s helped me.”
Gray’s opening round in the Boys’ championship gave him a four-shot halfway lead over Charlie Thornton, who was playing on his home course.
The Moortown apprentice was not aware he was creating a gulf between himself and the rest of the field until he stood on the 15th tee.
“I asked one of the officials (Phil Woodcock, county junior organiser) if any other Yorkshire lads were doing okay and he said, ‘They’re doing all right, all level or just a couple over’. Then he said, ‘I don’t think anyone will be under par today, they’d have to play like God’.
“I thought I wouldn’t tell him what I was doing then. I was four under at that point. I kept shtum about it.”
He conceded he got a bit of luck that all golfers need to put together a really low score.
“I duck-hooked it left at 17, nearly out of bounds, and it hit a tree and came out into the semi-rough,” he recalled.
“I knocked it on to eight foot and holed for a birdie. I had been quite worried when I hit the tee shot.”
Thornton was literally within Gray’s sights throughout the second round, playing in the group in front.
“On the 15th I looked towards one of my friends in the group ahead who was playing with Charlie and I said, ‘How’s he doing?’ He said, ‘he’s not doing great but he’s doing okay’ and I thought then that someone was going to have to go really low to beat me.
“It was a bit of a weight off my shoulders because I thought Charlie might be able to throw a sneaky low one in there with it being his home course.”
Gray added a 76 to win by two shots from Wakefield’s Dan Bradbury (74 73) as Thornton slipped to an 83.
“I won the Yorkshire Under-14s category playing in the Under-16 championship, but this is my first big competition win,” added Gray. “It’s good to have on the cv.”